Human interest and daily news were once in the same section until modern re-classification systems caused the news to split into different genres.
This was the research subject for Perry Parks, a researcher from Michigan State University. Park analyzed entries from 75 journalism textbooks, from 1894 to 2016, to study the historical changes of human interest writing.
Parks discovered that the difference between the two writing styles was created by a news switch at the turn of the 20th century that stressed a news connection between government and civic affairs.
Before then, between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, human interest stories were considered an important part of news publications. Writers often used emotion and description in articles to attract readers.
At the turn of the century, news became industrialized to fit a new logical pattern of classification called newsworthiness. Human interest became a section for stories that did not fit into this pattern yet remained a topic of interest to readers.
Standards of objectivity were also introduced at this time to guide writers to remain neutral while reporting the facts.
Parks noted that while human interest stories continued to run, news professionals considered it less important than the “news.” Some writers showed concern that when the news style moved away from emotion, it would also distract the reader from becoming involved with important issues.
According to Parks, the ideals of newsworthiness and objectivity continued into the 21st-century textbooks. Parks notes that with the recent adaptation of data journalism, human interest stories will be emphasized even less in the coming years.
In conclusion, Parks wrote that he believes today’s journalists should not be bound to an old tradition of classification that was meant for a different time and place that no longer exists.
Parks, P. (2019). An unnatural split: how ‘human interest’ sucks the life from significant news. Media, Culture & Society, 41(8), 1228–1244. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443718813498