Module JG370

Service Journalism

Module author

Martin Eide

University of Bergen

Learning objectives

After studying this module, you will be able to:

  • define and explain service journalism;
  • explain why readers are looking for advise;
  • give an overview of the historic development of the genre;
  • reflect service journalism critically.
Study point 1
Reading extract Service Journalism


Why Open School of Journalism believes that service journalism is important zu know

These days, the rise of information technology and the internet have made the field of journalism more intriguing and dynamic than ever. Although many people are aware of what journalism is in a broad sense, they are not cognizant of the fact that there are a plethora of different types of journalism that give it shape and diversity. One such type of journalism is "service journalism." To learn more about it, read the brief outline provided below:

What is service journalism? 

Service journalism is a phrase used to described a form of journalism that involves offering consumer-oriented advice and features. The advice and features can range from the frivolous to the serious. This type of journalism was founded by Clay Felker. He launched it in 1968 through the magazine New York. The magazine included a plethora of pieces, including literary and investigative pieces. There were also features on travel, food, and fashion. 

Examples of service journalism 

Service journalism appears in many different publication formats, including magazines like Maxim and U.S. News & World Report. The latter organization utilizes slogans like "New You Can Use," and this motto really reinforces what service journalism is all about: presenting useful information to the public. In many if not most cases, offering this service to the public is designed to increase conversion rates by reinforcing brand loyalty or stimulating a member of the target market to make a purchase. 

To gain a better understanding of what service journalism is really about, think of a journalist who puts together a list of restaurants within a 10-mile radius. This act would constitute a helpful service to the public, who would be able to select conveniently located eateries after reading the article. Yet another example of service journalism would be taking a poll or survey to see who a city's residents think offers the best wedding photography services. Individuals in the process of preparing for a wedding could use this information to select the most excellent, expedient services available.

Publications that use service journalism

There are a plethora of publications that are known for consistently employing service journalism strategies. Some of them include:

  • Budget Travel
  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Family Circle
  • FHM
  • Glamour
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Health
  • Ladies' Home Journal
  • Marie Claire
  • Maxim
  • Men's Fitness
  • Men's Health
  • Redbook
  • Self
  • Seventeen
  • Shape
  • VIVmag
  • Women's Health
  • ...

Service journalism devices

There are a plethora of different devices that can be employed to utilize service journalism effectively. Some of them include:

  • Blurbs are the summaries that appear after the headline and before the article. They can be used to offer the reader a quick overview of what the piece will discuss.
  • Subheadings provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the topic at hand than the header alone will offer. 
  • Q & A columns enable readers to gain more information about products, services, and other pertinent matters that can add value to their lives.
  • People get tired of hearing the same idea conveyed in the same way over and over again. For this reason, people who work within the service journalism make a point to repeat old information in a new way to keep the reader/viewer engaged and interested. 
  • Visual Thinking  involves using visual images to convey meaningful information rather than incorporating graphics and pictures which contain little to no useful data. 

Individuals who opt to enter the world of journalism should note that gaining awareness of the different sectors within the larger umbrella can help them operate more effectively within this field. In gaining a basic understanding of what service journalism is about, aspiring journalists can determine whether this form of publication would be ideal or advantageous for them.