Analysing skills for a career in Human Rights Journalism

Kate Lavrencic

Specialised skills are required to master particular strands of journalism, media and communications careers. Human rights journalism is a controversial yet equally relevant career from not only a global issue point of view, but also from the perspective of today’s media environment where various skills are needed to meet the demands of this career. All journalists must accumulate a range of skills in order to maximise the success of their career. These skills include writing and reporting abilities, competence in team-working, networking and digital media comprehension. Whilst these skills are integral to a human rights journalist, they should act as founding skills from which specific expertise can grow.

This essay will analyse three pivotal skills in human rights journalism including sound understanding and the ability to apply skills in media ethics, globalisation and media convergence. Media ethics is arguably the most important part of human rights journalism since it is through ethical decision-making that journalists in this career deliver information. Globalisation is inherent due to the fact that the rights of humans always are relevant and topical across the globe. Modern technology has allowed the distribution of journalism through social networks and new technology. Distribution is a crucial factor of human rights journalism, which perfectly demonstrates the importance of media convergence in this career. In order to understand how to gain knowledge in and apply these skills, we must first understand what human rights journalism entails.

In his contribution to Expanding Peace Journalism: Comparative and Critical Approaches, Ibrahim Seaga Shaw (2011, 107) defines human rights journalism as a ‘diagnostic style of reporting’ in which the field offers ‘critical reflection of the experiences and needs of the victims and perpetrators of physical, cultural and structural human rights violations’. Through his understanding, the duty of human rights journalism is to challenge political, social, economic and cultural imbalances of society (Shaw 2011, 107). Today, journalism and human rights cross over in an era of globalisation and digital media (White 2011, 7). Above all, ethical reasoning and decision making is an integral skill in human rights journalism.

Making ethical decisions

Ethics is one of the pillars of all good journalism, however, this issue is amplified in human rights journalism by the need to deliver information in the most effective way whilst minimising harm. Ethical journalism has been defined by Aiden White (2011, 4) as the way journalism professionals provide commentary on the events that shape other people’s lives. Media ethics are grounded in moral values. This parallel with human rights protection demonstrates why this sector of journalism is so important in serving the public’s right to know. In media, journalists must attain the ability to deliver ethical reporting, as this serves as the foundation for an individual’s professional practice regarding public interest (Sternberg 2016a). According to Plaisance (2009, 21), ethics is about becoming fluent in asking the right questions, which clarify the problem and help us explore possible solutions or compromises. Ethical decision making in human rights coverage often pertains to the possible consequences of material for stakeholders. For example, if we look at the controversy surrounding the Independent publishing a photo of Syrian children killed in the Houla region (Patching & Hirst 2014, 197), the editor needed to have used ethical reasoning to justify his decision for publication.

It is the duty of journalists to make ethical decisions in order to minimise harm, not avoid it (Plaisance 2009, 27). There are various versions of ethics codes in Australia to aid journalists in making ethical decisions. The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA 2013) Code of Ethics is commonly used by independent journalists. The code outlines recommendations which assist in guiding ethical decisions. For example, the code recommends journalists respect privacy of others, remain true to information in telling the true story and not to emphasise any point based on race, gender or religion (MEAA 2013). The code’s guidance clause states that basic values need interpretation and have the risk of coming into conflict where,  ‘only substantial advancement of the public interest or risk of substantial harm to people allows any standard to be overridden.’ Ethics is a subjective issue as this clause clearly demonstrates. Universally ‘correct’ decisions are impossible, I can only gain the skills of being able to justify my decisions to the best of my ability.

By adopting John Stuart Mill’s Principle of Utility in ensuring the greatest happiness for the greatest number, I can then build ethical decision-making skills in striving for accuracy, balance and objectivity (Sternberg 2016a). I would likely use the MEAA code as a guideline for my work, so, by familiarising myself with the code and practicing ethical journalism in my current work, I will be able to work towards my goal of understanding the application of the code. I’m actively building my skills in ethics through my current enrolment in KJB239 (Journalism Ethics and Issues) where learning about the decision making process within ethical dilemmas is the root of the syllabus. After honing skills in ethics and creating a foundation for my career, I will be able to apply these skills across a range of platforms. Media convergence has impacted the way ethics interacts with journalistic issues so it is important to understand convergence in order to apply ethical thinking.

Utilising media convergence for distribution

Media convergence has transformed the way in which we interpret and receive human rights coverage due to new media. Jenkins (2004, 34) describes convergence as a process, which alters the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences. Society has entered an era where all types of media are used in harmony (Jenkins 2004, 34). With this, there are both positive and negative impacts of convergence on human rights coverage. On one side, convergence and new media have lowered production costs, expanded the range of available delivery channels and enabled consumers to recirculate content (Jenkins 2004, 33). This means journalists in the sector have the opportunity to spread material via a range of platforms rather than waiting for a story in the next day’s paper.

In his lecture on social media, Sternberg (2016c) describes society as a ‘mediapolis’, defined by Deuze (2011, 137) as a “comprehensively mediated public space where media underpin and overarch the experience and expression of everyday life.” For a journalist in the human rights sector, this means speed of production is faster than ever, while opportunities to share work over various platforms has enabled journalists to target their material to specific audiences. According to Guberek and Silva (2014, 24), data collection and communications with strategic use of evidence are among the most prevalent stages in human rights work today. Journalists can now access detailed information pertaining to human rights through media convergence features. Mobile applications, crowdsourcing, social media, blogs and visual media gather data and create effective communication schemes which enable journalists to observe, capture and make meaning of evidence of human rights events (Guberek and Silva 2014, 24).

Similarly, Madianou (2012) argues that social media and networking sites have become increasingly popular in current humanitarian campaigns, which are easily accessible through the variety of new technology at our disposal. Contrarily, media convergence plays a role in allowing excessive public contribution. Thomas Bray (International Council on Human Rights 2002, 43) argues that the internet and new technologies that facilitate the transmission of information make it inevitable that journalists get more information than they are used to. Contrarily, relying on uncertain sources whose information is not always verifiable is a dangerous decision (International Council on Human Rights 2002, 43).

Despite the ease of distribution amongst various forms of technology and platforms, care needs to be taken when considering motivations of prospective sources, which potentially has a bigger impact of tainting the story. This online-driven industry has its pros and cons but the ultimate benefit of media convergence is ease of communication. The breadth of platforms make it easier to target audiences based on what kind of content (in whatever format) the journalist wants to release.

The importance of media convergence in human rights journalism will continue to be a vital skill for journalists in this field. Technology is constantly changing, making it challenging to predict where the future of new media lies. However, as a student, I am able to publish, share, ‘like’ and create content in whatever form I choose. By maintaining my existing skills with blogs as well as delving into other forms of communication such as Youtube videos, I can test the waters in what I enjoy creating. Through marrying various platforms, such as video distribution through social media, I will be able to create a portfolio of work while practicing my skills. According to the Australian Law Reform Commission (2012, 67) media convergence has increased the tendency towards media globalisation.

Gaining insight to human rights through globalisation

Human rights is relevant to every corner of the world, making globalisation inherent to this sector of journalism. Flew (2007, 67) describes globalisation as “the expanding scale, growing magnitude, speeding up and deepening impact of transcontinental flows and patterns of social interaction.” Most sectors of journalism are impacted by globalisation since recognising and communicating social interaction are relevant across the globe, no matter the issue. However, mastering globalisation is vital to human rights journalism due to the connection this issue has with public’s right to know. This is effectively summarised by Flew (2007, 67) who adds that the impact of globalisation refers to a “shift or transformation in the scale of human organisation that links distant communities and expands the reach of power relations across the world’s regions and contents.”

A human rights journalist’s career is reliant on globalisation where they must be able to effectively communicate on a global level in order to create connection through their work. In this sense, globalisation is highly beneficial for its increased mobility in distributing information on a global scale (Sternberg 2016b). Not only is human rights journalism impacted by globalisation in a practical sense, media convergence is a significant aiding factor in globalisation (Australian Law Reform Commission 2012, 67). By using media convergence, journalists are able to effectively communicate with all audiences through their stories, in turn raising awareness and encouraging human connection. Globalisation attracts larger audiences, giving access to information in driving profit optimisation (Sternberg 2016b).

Contrarily, there are risks involved with globalisation. Increased accessibility to published information has the potential to create homogenous content and increase legal regulation difficulties which can have detrimental effects on organisations (Sternberg, 2016b). The emotional stories within the sector can be shared to the online world in a matter of seconds, creating excellent profit and public response in interest. However, the International Council on Human Rights (2002, 13) says the fast-paced nature and wide-spread availability of material as a result of globalisation may result in an important story lacking the full coverage it deserves.

Although important for someone who is aspiring to a career in this field, as a student, it may be trickier to gain a professional grip on the concept. However, there are steps that can be taken to benefit from a general understanding of the world, which may come in handy later on. The university offers a wide range of opportunities including overseas exchanges which I can begin as early as next year. Exchanging to places vastly different to Australia, like Asia, would challenge me to understand human rights standards in a far different culture to what I’m used to. Additionally, an  internship within a human rights organisation is a highly desirable opportunity for me. In relation to this, a highly beneficial career goal as a human rights journalist would be becoming an international volunteer within UNHCR. Although this is unachievable until I reach the age of 25 (UNHCR 2016), it is a goal to work towards. Whilst travelling, I would be able to write and use my learned skills to practice human rights publication.


Through analysis of media ethics, media convergence and globalisation, this essay has explored three skills integral to the success a human rights journalist. The importance of media ethics has been demonstrated through the controversial nature of human rights reporting and the need for material discretion to maintain credibility of the journalist. Evidence has suggested media convergence is a modern, dominating area of human rights journalism. The ability to distribute messages through a variety of formats means the ability to effectively use different platforms is and will continue to be of highest priority regarding the need for human rights to be brought forward into the public sphere. Similarly, globalisation has been identified as the foundation of human rights journalism as an issue that is of universal concern. Globalisation’s importance has been demonstrated through the need for journalists to understand human rights in order to gain the ability to effectively portray a story to a variety of outlets through media convergence in a way that can be ethically justified. By taking advantage of university and international opportunities, I have the chance to start practicing these skills now. It’s important to build these skills as early as possible so I am able to balance journalism skills with the ever-changing nature of the human rights sector.

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Reference List

Australian Law Reform Commission. 2012. Classification- content regulation and convergent media – final report. Accessed May 20, 2016.

Deuze. 2011. Media life, media, culture and society. 33(1): 137-148. Accessed May 19, 2016.

Flew, Terry. 2007. “Globalisation and global media corporations in understanding global media” In Understanding global media. 66-97. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Accessed May 20, 2016.

International Council on Human Rights. 2002. Journalism, media and the challenge of human rights reporting. Vernier: ATAR Rotto Press. Accessed May 25, 2016.

Guberek, Tamy and Romesh Silva. 2014. “Human rights and technology: mapping the landscape to support grantmaking.”Accessed May 20, 2016.

Madianou, Mirca. 2012. Humanitarian Campaigns in social media. n.p: Routledge. Accessed May 27, 2016. doi: 10.1080/1461670X.2012.718558.

Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). 2013. “Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance journalists’ code of ethics”. Accessed May 19, 2016. Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance

Patching, Roger and Martin Hirst. 2014. Journalism Ethics and Issues: Arguments and cases for the twenty-first century. 1st Ed. New York: Routledge.

Plaisance, Patrick Lee. 2009. Media Ethics: Key principles responsible for practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Shaw, Ibrahim Seaga. 2011. “human rights journalism: a critical conceptual framework of a complimentary strand of peace journalism” In Expanding peace journalism: comparative and critical approaches, edited by Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, Jake Lynch and Robert A Hackett, 96-121. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

Sternberg, J. 2016a. Lecture 9.

Sternberg, J. 2016b. Lecture 2.

Sternberg, J. 2016c. Lecture 10.

UNHCR. 2016. “united nations volunteers”. Accessed May 22, 2016.

White, Aidan. 2011. Ethical Journalism and Human Rights. n.p: Thomas Hammarberg: council of Europe commissioner for human rights. Accessed May 20, 2016.


Secrets of Success for a Media Professional

KJB102 Assessment 2

Secrets of Success in Online Journalism

Written by: Kate Lavrencic, Kayla Wratten and Emily Burke 

Online journalism is a contemporary form of journalism emerging in society where editorial content is immediately distributed and published through social media and the internet as opposed to broadcast or print. In order to flourish in the industry as an online journalist, media and communication (JMC) professional, there are several vital secrets to success that need to be recognised and implemented. This essay will discuss just three elements of success that are integral to a prosperous career, including extensive and effective usage of social media, the ability to network effectively, and finally, the skill of working well in a team. To effectively demonstrate the importance of these success factors, references to distinguished online corporation, BuzzFeed, will be deconstructed to discuss not only how each skill is important within a real-world context, but also how each factor weaves into the next.


In light of the current landscape of print journalism, it is evident that media professionals must have an active social media presence to keep up with the ever-changing face of print, promote themselves as a brand and most importantly connect with their audience.The heyday of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat has lead to the urge for media professionals to use these spaces to share their network and engage with audiences by leading twitter chats, responding to Facebook comments on articles and ultimately form relationships (Ordway 2015). According to David Higgerson (2015), the ability to use and create a social media presence is vital to a media professional because “…Journalism needs to take its cue from how audiences react and respond to what we do and find ways to get the audience to engage with what we know they need to know”. Likewise, Donne Torr (2015) suggests social media’s power in creating a successful career. Social media helps you learn about your customers, which aids in targeting customers and understanding their specific needs (Torr 2015). Platforms like Twitter allow journalists to engage with current audiences while seeking out new ones through use of the likes of hashtags (Torr 2015). Additionally, Torr (2015) adds that social media channels not only create meaningful relationships with people and provide an opportunity to directly communicate with existing subscribers, they also serve as a window to the world where online material can be accessed from anywhere with a router, which serves as an affordable way to increase brand awareness.

An organisation who is deemed one of the most successful in their field, BuzzFeed, has shown evidence in using social media as a platform to base the company on. Jonah Peretti, Buzzfeed founder, has “flipped the model of engagement on its head,” according to Connolly (2015). If Snapchat, Facebook or Youtube is where users want to consume content directly on those platforms, then that’s where BuzzFeed will reach them (Marks 2016). This is evident in their highly active Facebook feed, mobile news apps and Snapchat Brand. BuzzFeed’s engagement with audiences through Facebook comment responses, live-feeds and comprehensive understanding of their audience through social networks and tailoring their content accordingly, has resulted in a successful brand whose name is highly regarded by their audience. Evidence has suggested that leading an active social media profile is a major key to success in the career of a JMC professional. While social media aids audience engagement and brand loyalty, it can be an important contributor to growing networks, which ultimately makes media professionals more valuable as a brand.


Along with having an active social media presence, the ability to network effectively is another element which significantly contributes to a successful career as an online journalist. Networking is the act of developing a group of acquaintances through which journalists can regularly communicate to create mutually benefitting relationships (WebFinance 2016). In order to network effectively, JMC professionals must be able to navigate the new technological world by developing an online presence within a variety of social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Additionally, online journalists must frequently attend events such as media conferences to expose themselves to a broader range of people and personally meet those they have already communicated with in a digital environment. Advice from the Entrepeneur states that another key factor of networking is valuing the quality of the connections established rather than the quantity of them: “Put away your business cards, and form genuine friendships with people you meet.” (Entrepreneur 2015) It is essential that an online journalist follows these skills as maintaining strong contacts in the industry can potentially shape the stories they write or grant them exclusivity on breaking news. As forming closer associates creates mutual trust, it also opens the field for recommendations to further links and connections.


An example of an online media organisation that implements networking to increase their success rate is the news and entertainment website, BuzzFeed. This company ensures that they have strong partnerships by communicating with both editorial and advertising partners to create content. By including these partners in their posts, BuzzFeed is building a relationship which will form a bond between the companies and be mutually benefitting, such as the case when they partnered with the media investment organisation, GroupM (Swanty 2015). GroupM’s advantages include being granted a creative residency on the BuzzFeed Motion Campus, being the first business to have access to BuzzFeed’s new Pound technology and being allowed preferential media pricing (Swanty 2015). A BuzzFeed spokesperson said that the partnerships will allow their online corporation to pilot their recently developed Pound technology and “have a bigger audience and bigger impact than what would have been possible on our own,” (Swanty 2015). BuzzFeed’s soaring success rate is evidence that the ability to network as a JMC professional will bolster career opportunities. Networking by gaining reliable contacts is not the only vital secret of success online journalists need to recognise, as the ability to communicate through visual imagery is also incredibly important.   


The third secret to success alongside an active social media presence and the ability to network is communication. This is a simple yet vital factor that contributes to the success of an online journalist or JMC professional’s career. As the internet has formed one of the “greatest advance(s) for communication,” online journalists are in the light by how well they communicate with their audiences (Acharya 2012). Various communication types and skills are used online to deliver a thorough range of content to interest and intrigue audiences (Acharya 2012). These types of communications include visual, narrate, social, humanise, personalise and utilise (Acharya 2012). However, the most effective and efficient form of communication is the use of visual media for an online journalist to deliver this content to intended audiences (Bradshaw 2011), (American Press Institute 2016), (White 2016). This term is described simply as “the transmission of information and ideas using symbols and imagery” (White 2016).  Head of Communications for a simple graphic design software company called Canva, Zach Kitschke, conducted a study in 2015 for the spectrum of information retention in a human brain (Kitschke 2015). The statistics were astounding, with only 20% of information from texts remembered compared to 80% of information recorded when placed into an infographic (Kitschke 2015). Therefore, it is essential for online journalists to include images with key information relevant to the text that will grab attention and impact the audience. The delivery and format of news has evolved over time, to keep up with the public’s changing consumption habits and preferences (Kitschke 2015). At present, “62% of journalists are required to write online news and another 39% are expected to blog” (Kitschke 2015). Therefore, it is vital to communicate through an effective and appropriate use of media as an online journalist.


This is successfully accomplished by BuzzFeed. One of BuzzFeed’s guides to success was that online users shared their content. The content shared was “highly visual”, stated by Jon Stenibery, president of BuzzFeed (Rowman 2014). Through the use of bright colours, bold font types and unique short video clips, BuzzFeed targets and lures audiences to engage with the content provided. If these three secrets of success are not followed, then an online journalist will not have the required skills and knowledge to succeed. Therefore, a combination of the appropriate use of secret successes, including social media, networking and visual communication, ultimately contributes to how an online media professional becomes successful.

To achieve success as an online journalist, media professionals need to understand how to implement a wide range of skills and abilities. As a result of the changing media landscape, journalists need to maintain an active social media presence, which not only bolsters publicity for themselves but also allows them to network and forge connections with a wider range of people. The ability to network effectively is an integral key to success in the industry, as creating contacts grants access to a broader range of stories. In order for these stories to be engaging to contemporary audiences, journalists must have a clear understanding of the importance of communicating through visual imagery. These three skills are integral factors of success because they compliment each other. To understand and use these skills to build a career in this industry, online journalism will be greatly beneficial in building, communicating and sharing ideas. This will ultimately lead JMC professionals towards a successful career and flourish within the industry.


Reference List


Acharya, U. 2012. “Online journalism”. Accessed April 12, 2016.

American Press Institute. 2016. “What makes journalism different than other forms of communication?”. Accessed April 12, 2016.

Bradshaw, P. 2011. “6 ways of communicating data journalism”. Accessed April 13, 2016.


Connolly, B. 2015. “How Buzzfeed discovered the secret to success on social media”. Accessed April 18, 2016.

Entrepreneur. 2015. “5 Steps to Seriously Improve    Your Networking Skills.” Accessed April 15, 2016. 245995


Higgerson, D. 2015. “Digital journalism trends in 2016: why audience engagement holds the key to a thriving future”. Accessed April 18, 2016.


Kitschke, Z. 2015. “Why Visual Communication Is the Most Important Skill for Journalists in 2015”. Accessed April 13, 2016.


Marks, D. 2016. “The buzzfeed approach to social media strategy”. Accessed April 18, 2016.


Ordway, D. 2015. “What do audiences think of journalists social media use”. Accessed April 18, 2016.

Rowman, D. (2014). How BuzzFeed mastered social sharing to become a media giant for a new era. Retrieved from


Swant, M. 2015. “Here Are the Perks BuzzFeed and WPP Will Get From Partnering With Each Other.” Accessed April 18, 2016. -buzzfeed-and-wpp-will-get-partnering-each-other-166586


Torr. D. “why is social media important? 7 reasons why you can’t ignore”. Accessed April 18, 2016.


WebFinance. 2016. “Networking.” Accessed April 15, 2016.

White, D. 2016. “What is Visual Communication”. Accessed April, 12, 2016.


Get Inspired: Louis Theroux

With the fast-paced and rapidly evolving world of technology and breaking news via social media, it can be argued that journalism is a dying part of society. Contrary to this belief, journalism is flourishing within the media landscape where new opportunities with technology, ownership and audiences are evolving (Endres n.d, 3). Investigative Journalist, Louis Theroux, has effectively reinvented traditional news reporting by marrying technology, journalism and interviewing styles to create a new class of documentary that informs, immerses and inspires audiences through insight into different lifestyles and cultures. This essay will analyse Theroux’s success in using media convergence of film and broadcast journalism to distribute his work along with discussing his media partnerships which support globalisation and why this is important. The fourth estate and public sphere will be discussed in terms of his work as a journalist and his dedication to discovering unique cultures and supporting the understanding of global issues.

Louis Theroux is famous for his work as a television presenter for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (Louis Theroux’s Biography n.d). Renowned for his controversial documentaries, he travels the world investigating elusive lifestyles, trends and beliefs (Louis Theroux’s Biography n.d). Born to Anne Castle (Usborne 2012) and novelist father, Paul Theroux (Independent 2001) on May 20, 1970 (Independent 2001), Theroux learned at a young age that journalism was the career for him (Townend 2009). After graduating with a history degree from Oxford in 1991, he began working for Metro Weekly (Louis Theroux’s Biography n.d). After leaving Metro Weekly, Theroux worked for a number of organisations including Spy Magazine, before being hired as a writer and correspondent for television show TV Nation (Louis Theroux’s Biography n.d). Theroux reported on the likes of the “Ku Klux Klan” and “Avon Ladies in the Amazon”. His series “Weird Weekends” began in 2005 where he set out to discover “the genuinely odd in the most ordinary settings” (Independent 2001). It’s here, where some of his most well known work took off which kick-started Theroux’s career as an investigative journalist.

Theroux has effectively used globalisation in his career to spread his work further and faster  in order to reach more viewers around the world. Globalisation is described by “the expanding scale, growth…and deepening impact of transcontinental flows and patterns of a social interaction” (Held et al. 1999). This refers to interrelating trends including international communications delivered via media technologies like satellite and internet (Flew 2007, 67). In Theroux’s context, globalisation allows for circulation of social and cultural education. Theroux’s employer, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (Louis Theroux’s Biography n.d) maintains global partnerships with the likes of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) which are major broadcast sources for Australian audiences. This connection means faster distribution of Theroux’s work and in turn faster information and education to Australians about elusive cultures. This is an example only of Australia, the BBC maintain partnerships around the globe which makes them an incredibly important connection for Theroux. His work heavily demonstrates the expanding growth of social and cultural understanding which encourages unification and cohesion of beliefs and lifestyles. Without globalisation, Theroux’s work would not be distributed and therefore would undermine the very purpose of his work.

Media convergence has been used effectively in forming Theroux’s documentary work for both creation and distribution. The term, as outlined by Jenkins (2004, 35), represents a reconfiguration of media power and reshaping of media aesthetics across a wide range of platforms including (but not limited to) TV, internet and phone. Theroux uses broadcast to share his work on major platforms, however also uses social media such as Facebook and Youtube to increase his audience and awareness of his brand. Broadcast itself has been affected by media convergence in a world where consumers are able to watch programmes on their phone, tablet or laptop rather than waiting for a designated time slot on a particular channel on their television at home. This convergence has impacted Theroux by attracting a wider range of people, whose preferred method of watching content may be via device on the go. Theroux benefits from media convergence because his content is available to anyone in the world, no matter the difference in time or distance. Theroux has used media convergence to alter interviewing style through unifying traditional journalism and documentary style. Interviews are conducted by combining the objectivity and structure of a news report with the informative and entertaining style of a documentary, in turn shaping his interviews into a more human experience. Documentaries and journalism are founded in similar traditions, however, film emphasises narrative while traditional journalism does not (Andrew 2014). Journalists like Edward Murrow founded the idea of activist films, helping shape the concept of social issues being explored in documentaries (Andrew 2014). Following in his footsteps, Theroux’s distinctive technique with use of film requires viewers to actively participate rather than spectate. This is achieved through Transportation Theory, which is the theory that film’s immersive effect of audiences causes a unique temporary shift in one’s mind (Claris 2012).  By combining facts with storytelling, as Theroux does so well, empathy and action is encouraged (Claris 2012). His effective use of media and technology is demonstrative of how media convergence allows viewers to access his work anywhere, anytime, maximising his impact on viewers.

As a journalist, Louis Theroux is part of the fourth estate which gives him power to impact the public sphere. Thomas Carlyle (1840)  claimed the term ‘Fourth Estate’ was first applied by Edmund Burke during the 18th century as a contrast to the clergy, aristocracy and commoners; the three estates in France (Allen 2009, 3). In its essence, it’s the relationship between the press and their readers, signifying that despite the formal constitution, genuine political power resides with the role of the press (Allen 2009, 3). Although Theroux is part of the fourth estate, his work doesn’t follow the traditional guidelines of processing news in a way that exposes a scandal or a secret that affects the public (Ingram and Henshall 2008). Theroux’s role within the fourth estate is to address issues to break social and cultural boundaries, placing him predominately in the public sphere. Mckee (2005, 5) describes the public sphere as a space where people around the globe can exchange ideas, discuss issues and find out what’s happening around the world to discover what political and social issues the world is facing. Theroux’s documentary “The Most Hated Family in America” is an example of his work within the public sphere. Theroux spent a several weeks living amongst the Westboro Baptist Church, a religious organisation infamous for their offensive views and outspoken messages (SPLC n.d). Rather than a formal one-on-one interview with members, Theroux took his interviews into the house of the main family. He spoke to each member in an intimate environment where they were more comfortable to open up, revealing who they were as a person and their beliefs. A report from the Telegraph UK described Theroux as a journalist who “…seems to go in search of humanity where others might not look, and treads a challenging line between sympathy and horror.”(Stadlen 2014). This is a perfect representation of Theroux’s work in the public sphere where his documentaries spark discussion and inspire others to perhaps look at issues with a different perspective. His work describes society to itself in order to objectively inform while leaving room for viewers to make their own decisions on issues.

Louis Theroux’s unapologetic yet laid-back nature inspires me. His empathy combined with his hard-hitting interviewing style humanises controversial, stigmatised or poorly understood social issues (Miller 2014) which is what I strive for in my career as a journalist. He is often noticed for his “deliberate” (Townend 2009) naive interviewing style and persona on screen, however, it is evident his genuine interest lies in his subjects, not in acquiring a reputation as a serious documentary maker for its own sake (Usborne 2012). An element Theroux and I share is the appreciation of abnormality and humour. I would like to think that I share open-mindedness with him which allows for exploration of new experiences and insight into different cultures and lifestyles. Theroux and I both value fairness and equality. The way in which his documentaries promote the understanding of different lifestyles encourages social change in breaking down stigma and discrimination which results in reflecting on the fundamentals of human nature. My biggest goal as a journalist will be to treat my audience as a participant, not an observer. Theroux does this effectively in his documentaries that tell stories because humanising work has the potential to reach and impact further. Theroux’s devil’s advocate interviewing style, with an easy-going attitude, combined with his strong understanding of humanity and sense of ethics is exactly what I strive for in the future of my work.

It is evident that Theroux’s career has been acutely impacted by media convergence, and globalisation which has required some adaptation in his work as these factors progress. However, through analysis of his career, it has been demonstrated that these factors can be attributed to the success of his career within the fourth estate and has allowed widespread awareness and understanding,  collectively consolidating his role in the public sphere, and as an influential journalist of today.


Reference List

Allen, Stuart. 2009. “The Routledge Companion to news and journalism”. Accessed March 20, 2016.

Andrew, Liam. 2014. “controlled chaos: as journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?”. Accessed March 14, 2016.

BBC. 2016. “BBC World Service: Australasia”. Accessed March 24, 2016.

Claris. 2012. “Using Narrative to persuade and motivate”. Accessed March 28, 2016.

Endres, Kathleen L. n.d. “Evolutionof journalism and mass communication”. 2.0 Themes affecting Journalism and mass communication. Accessed March 23, 2016.

Flew, Terry. 2007. Understanding Global Media. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Held, David, Anthony Mcgrew, David Goldblatt, Jonathan Perraton. “What is globalisation?”. Accessed March 14, 2016.

Independent. 2001. “You ask the questions: Louis Theroux” Accessed March 9, 2016.

Ingram, David and Peter Henshall. 2008. “ch.38 Introduction to investigative reporting”. Accessed March 18, 2016.

Jenkins, Henry. 2004. “The cultural logic of media convergence” International Journal of Cultural Studies 7 (1) 34-43. Accessed March 14, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/1367877904040603

Louis Theroux’s Biography. n.d. “Louis Theroux’s Biography” Accessed March 13, 2016.

McKee, Alan. 2005. The Public Sphere: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Miller, Faye. 2014. “what Louis Theroux can teach us about social research”. Accessed Mark 15, 2016.

Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC). n.d. “Westboro Baptist Church”. Accessed March 15, 2016.

Stadlen, Matthew. 2014. “Louis Theroux: ‘I really am a socially awkward nerd’”. Accesses March 13, 2016.

Usborne, Simon. 2012. “Louis Theroux: ‘I’m not out to take advantage of anyone. I’m just being me’”. Accessed March 13, 2016.

Townend, Judith. 2009. “ ‘I’ve always seen myself as a journalist’ – louis theroux on his style work and drive”. Accessed March 9, 2016.–louis-theroux-on-his-style-work-and-drive/s5/a533342/


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