The idea of interpretive journalism is going beyond the typical fact-based, objective journalism and covering the more opinion based, larger background illustrations of journalism (Salgado & Strömbäck, 2011). There is more of an emphasis on the motives and significance of an event, stated by Salgado and Strömbäck (2011), rather than truth or empirical information of the event. Overall, the interpretive journalism is taking the facts and figures of past informative or objective journalism and giving it not just context in a great context but also demonstrating a human and relatable background to events in the news.
The National Observer and The New York Times, both of which are pictured, are primary examples of the beginnings of interpretive journalism becoming front page news rather than being on the side page. Bernard Kilgore was the one to launch the National Observer as a way to get a new generation of readers that are more interested in the type of stories that interpretive journalism offered (Landers, 2005).
The National Observer contained stories of all topics such as cultural, social, economic, and political issues of the time, mentions Landers (2005), while also giving in-depth analysis and opinions on these problems. The National Observer was first released in February of 1962 and was well received by reviews and critics as a vital part of the interpretive type of journalism and separating it from the other journals at the time (Landers, 2005). There was also reproaches about the National Observer, states Landers (2005), that is still common for interpretive journalism, such as not giving serious stories or trying to persuade readers to have certain opinions on topics. Landers (2005) also discusses that the National Observer, being mainly a part of the 1960’s, is important in speaking about the turbulent times of this era by helping readers inform themselves on the opinions and activism that was defining the times. Helping increase activism of significant issues in society is one of the main reasons why interpretive journalism was created, so the National Observer being a dominant part of that help led to other papers being influenced by this journal.
The New York Times had already started with early forms of interpretive journalism with new reviews and weekly summary side sections beginning in the 1930’s (Landers, 2005). This review news that was a precursor to interpretive journalism was central in this time period because of the Great Depression, informing people of President Franklin Roosevelt’s plans and New Deal economics and learning about the rise of fascism and crisis internationally. Because most editors felt uncomfortable about the subjective process that interpretive journalism gave to journalists, this type of journalism did not become common until the 1960’s because of the issues of the time along with the National Observer (Landers, 2005). When John Denson became the editor of the New York Times in March 1961, he adapted the interpretive journalist style that he had practiced in other journals that he used to work for, Landers (2005) includes. This led to the interpretive style of stories being moved from the side and end of the newspapers to the front-page news stories. And because the New York Times is not only one of the most famous newspapers, but it is also still going on today unlike the National Observer, which went out of print in the 1970’s, it would be influential in the development of interpretive journalism to the modern day. It is important to recognize that interpretive journalism with it opinion and human based stories still holds a deep effect with us today and what we believe in society and vital issues.
Landers, J. (2005). The National Observer, 1962-77: Interpretive Journalism Pioneer. Journalism History, 31(1), 13-22.
Salgado, S., & Strömbäck, J. (2011). Interpretive Journalism: A Review of Concepts, Operationalizations and Key Findings. Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism,13(2), 144-161.
Image Attribution: Image #1 is in the Public Domain; Image #2 “New York Times” by Charles LeBlanc licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Written by Gillian White, 2017