Me, Me, Me: The Rise and Rise of Autobiographical Journalism

First appeared in The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism , edited by Stuart Allan, Routledge 2010

The growth of autobiographical, ‘confessional’ journalism is one of the most striking elements in contemporary journalism. This is journalism given over to the intimate details of writers’ personal and emotional lives. Some articles are ‘one-offs’, writers talking about particular events in their lives. Some are barely distinguishable from diaries or blogs, ongoing accounts of the writers’ daily existence. Some are ongoing but focused on problems in the writer’s life, such as divorce or cancer. No subject is off-limit nor are there many limits to the intimacies which writers are now prepared to share. Thirty years ago such columns were almost non-existent, especially in serious newspapers. Now they are a staple element of features sections and weekend supplements, even recognised as a distinctive genre. “This genre” writes Bendorf is “a flexible form of personal essay” which “is a way to share life’s defining events and relationships in a form that connects with your readers.” Where has the phenomenon of autobiographical, confessional journalism come from? Why has it taken hold in a practice whose professional values were previously more concerned with providing a record of events, with objectivity and impartiality? Indeed not only why has it taken hold but why has it become so prevalent? Is this evidence of journalistic dumbing-down?

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Me, Me, Me, Autobiographical Journalism


This article appeared in Journalism ,  October 2010   vol. 11  no. 5  , Sage

While coverage of the environment generally has increased in the national media, some subjects remain difficult to place. One such subject is endangered species and threats to their survival, in particular, loss of habitat. This article is about the reporting of one highly endangered European species, the Iberian lynx, in the UK national press. It exposes the news values determining which stories get into the press. The article also explores the role of individual journalists and environmental campaign groups in getting coverage and the persistence, invention and manoeuvring which leads to innovation in news values.

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The Missing Lynx




This article appeared in Journalism Practice, April 2010 (Vol 4 – No 2), Sage

Confessional Journalism has become a staple of contemporary journalism, either in the form of first person real life experiences (often ghosted by journalists) or regular columns by journalists detailing  intimate details of their lives. The form is now  recognised as a distinct genre but what has not received attention, except as an internal debate within journalism itself, are the consequences for journalism and journalists themselves of this form of writing. There is mounting evidence that editors are exerting pressure towards this type of writing, favouring particular types of writers. This article investigates the compelling ethical implications for  writers and their subjects within the genre and argues that these implications are producing distinctive journalistic responses and strategies. Read the full article.

Journalism Ethics and Confessional Journalism