How the News Feels: The Empathic Power of Literary Journalists

Available from: UMASS Press | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKSHOP

Literary journalism’s origins can be traced to the nineteenth century, when it developed alongside the era’s sentimental literature. Combining fact-based reporting with the sentimentality of popular fiction, literary journalism encouraged readers to empathize with subjects by presenting more nuanced and engaging stories than typical news coverage. While women writers were central to the formation and ongoing significance of the genre, literary journalism scholarship has largely ignored their contributions. 

How the News Feels re-centers the work of a range of writers who were active from the nineteenth century until today, including Catharine Williams, Margaret Fuller, Nellie Bly, Winifred Black, Zora Neale Hurston, Joan Didion, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, and Alexis Okeowo. Offering intimate access to their subjects’ thoughts, motivations, and yearnings, these journalists encouraged readers to empathize with society’s outcasts, from asylum inmates and murder suspects to “fallen women” and the working poor. As this carefully researched study shows, these writers succeeded in defining and developing the genre of literary journalism, with stories that inspire action, engender empathy, and narrow the gap between writer, subject, and audience.

How the News Feels is a pleasure to read due to Fitzgerald’s lucid, engaging, animated, and clear writing style. At the same time, it also makes a significant contribution to its field by expanding scholarly understanding of sentimentalism as not just a style but an ethos—an ethos that has significantly shaped the genre of literary journalism through the work of generations of woman and nonbinary writers.”—Laura R. Fisher, author of Reading for Reform: The Social Work of Literature in the Progressive Era

Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better

Available from: Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble

In Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better, Jonathan D. Fitzgerald argues that today’s popular music, movies, TV shows, and books are making the world a better place. For all the hand-wringing about the decline of morals and the cheapening of culture in our time, contemporary media brims with examples of fascinating and innovative art that promote positive and uplifting moral messages—without coming across as “preachy.”

The catch? Today’s moral messages can be quite different than the ones your mother taught you. Fitzgerald compares the pop culture of yesterday with that of today and finds that while both are committed to major ideals—especially God, Family, and Country—the nature of those commitments has shifted.

In his witty, expressive style, Fitzgerald explains how we’ve arrived at the era of New Sincerity and why it’s good news for our future.


“Jonathan Fitzgerald is a young talent in the religion journalism world.”

-Mark Oppenheimer, “Beliefs” columnist for the New York Times and author

“In a world full of paper-thin facades and knock-offs, Jonathan Fitzgerald points the way forward to a more authentic future. In Not Your Mother’s Morals, he explains how the new sincerity movement in contemporary pop culture is making way for moral storytelling in unlikely places. I highly recommend this engaging book written by one of the rising generation’s most thoughtful cultural observers.”

– Jonathan Merritt, author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars

“I say this — and I say it sincerely — that Jonathan Fitzgerald is an astute observer of Christianity in Western culture. By turning ‘conventional wisdom’ on its head, he shows us some truth we would not otherwise have seen: that the ‘new sincerity’ is in fact good for us, for our faith, and for our culture. Someone might even say that it’s virtuous. Highly recommended.”

-Tony Jones blogs at Patheos, writes books on Christian theology, and is the theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis

“Our generation of writers has spent an enormous amount of energy trying to understand where Christian engagement with popular culture was going after the evangelical bubble exploded. ‘Not Your Mother’s Morals’ has arrived just as we’re able to start looking back and making sense of the trajectory, and it is an excellent guide to a cultural landscape that many of our parents are just beginning to understand.”

-David Sessions, religion reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and founding editor of

“Fitzgerald is poignant, with a voice that forces you to confront the source of your perspective.  This work expresses emerging generations’ sentiments simply, effectively, and vitally.  He makes a point that many have felt, but few can articulate.”

-Andrew Schwab, Frontman of Project 86 and Author of The Tin Soldiers