Much news is focused on presenting facts and statistics, which may get a little boring unless someone has a keen interest in the subject. While people may be very interested in the latest presidential polls, something that may cause cancer, a food recall, or what the weather will be like tomorrow, news sources like newspapers, magazines and television shows may also want to put a “human face” on the news by covering a story more in depth. Sometimes called the story behind the story or an emotional news story, the human interest story may look at news in a more personal way, especially by interviewing people affected or creating a report on one or several people facing challenges that have been covered in the news. The goal is to engage us emotionally in presentation of the news.
It’s common to see at least one human interest story on a nightly news broadcast or in a morning newspaper. A newspaper might be covering home foreclosure rates and have an article that deals with statistics regarding them. To flesh out this story and offer greater coverage, it might then feature an article on a few people in the neighborhood who are experiencing a home foreclosure. Emphasis would be on the personal effects of such a difficult experience, and would be likely to raise readers’ understanding about how the “facts and numbers” on home foreclosure were really working in their community.
Unlike in straight journalism, where it is hoped that journalists will remain objective, these emotional stories may be more flexibly written. Sometimes, the details are so intense, that the journalist hardly needs to insert any editorial information. At other times, coverage has a decided slant, and the decision to include this type of story to flesh out other reports may be deliberate. Putting a human face on bare facts can move an audience to react in a certain way, and push an agenda by the media source that isn’t at all objective. There’s some contention that these stories shouldn’t be included in objective journalism at all, but many people find them beneficial, moving or entertaining diversions from bare facts news.
A human interest story doesn’t have to be deeply moving, and it may be added more for entertainment value. A news story about a presidential candidate’s favorite vegetable or his or her daily workout really isn’t “news” in the traditional sense. Other stories that can make it into the news may be unrelated to news content and provide a needed break from the “if it bleeds it leads” style of journalism. For instance, Anton the Amazing Squirrel who has learned to build with dominoes, might be added as a story that adds levity to a broadcast or newspaper that primarily covers murders, dangerous statistics, and reports on the negative aspects of the country.