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ARTICLE: Using personal stories for political campaigns

Interview by Jarret Callahan, licence CC BY-NC 2.0

Both the Daily Mirror and the Sunday People used personal stories in their respective political campaigns, Jen Birks of the University of Nottingham. Birks analysed a total of 473 news stories from the two papers, all regarding a UK policy to cut housing benefits.

It is common for UK press (tabloid press in particular) to depict welfare recipients as devious “scroungers” – people who willingly avoid work in order to lead an easy life on social benefits. Still, 16 per cent of Mirror and People articles in question challenged this conception. Despite small, this proportion is still more than what could be expected from the UK press, Birks remarks.

Especially, both papers used personal, emotive case studies in order to debunk the government’s rationales underlying the policy. In some parts, the papers appeared to deliberately manipulate their interviewees into attacking the policy, rather than merely recounting their stories.

The article “‘Moving life stories tell us just why politics matters’” was published by the journal Journalism. It is available online (free abstract).

Picture: Interview by Jarret Callahan, licence CC BY-NC 2.0.

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