New modes of journalism, such as testimony journalism, use the first-person to let members of marginalized communities tell their stories in their own words and increase the audience’s affinity with them. However, the assumption that this strategy fosters audience affinity has not been empirically investigated. We build on findings from media psychology, demonstrating that the point of view (POV) from which a narrative is told affects engagement with the narrative and persuasion, and apply these insights to journalism studies and news reports. Using a factorial design in an online experiment (n = 924), we examined the effect of POV in a newspaper article on the experience of social presence of the article’s protagonist, identification with him and attitude changes. As hypothesized, social presence was significantly stronger when reading a first-person article than a third-person article. Moreover, social presence mediated the effect of POV on identification. POV also indirectly affected support for policy and behavioral intentions through the mediation of social presence and identification. The findings suggest that the first-person POV heightens the experience of a real interaction with the protagonist. This effect occurs even when the first-person POV testimonial is part of a newspaper article written by a journalist.
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© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- Testimony journalism
- point of view
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