Dr. Unni From presents Cultural Journalism Research Perspectives from the Nordic Region

Dr. Unni From from Aarhus University visited Hamburg Mundusians to talk about changing trends and issues in the field of cultural journalism research from a Nordic perspective. Here, we bring you highlights from her guest lecture presentation.

2018.11.01 | Sabeen Jamil

Cultural Journalism is an emerging field of research which often lacks an exact and concise definition and non-western perspectives. With digital technologies taking over the media landscape, the ways in which cultural journalism is practiced have changed as well. These changes in the field have also changed the role of cultural journalists and cultural critics. Despite these developments in the practices of cultural journalism, this field of journalism studies lacks research and diverse perspectives.

Acknowledging the need for research and philosophical discussion of cultural journalism practices, the Mundus Journalism Specialism Programme in Hamburg arranged a guest lecture session for Mundus Journalism students with Dr. Unni From, Deputy Head of the School of Communication and Culture at Aarhus University.

In this session, which took place at Hamburg University in October 2018, Dr. From told students how cultural journalism practices have evolved in the Nordic news media over centuries and why it is important for researchers to give their attention to this otherwise limited research discipline. 

Dr. From’s talk was based around her longitudinal studies of Danish newspapers coverage of art and culture during the 20th century and the first decade of the1st century. As a co-author (with Nete Nørgaard Kristensen) of Kulturjournalistik- journalistik om kultur Dr. From and her colleague conducted an empirical analysis of the coverage of culture in Danish press from 1890-2008. For this study, a content analysis of 2813 newspaper articles published in four Danish newspapers was conducted.

To contextualise this research, Dr. From explained to students how both the practice and concept of cultural journalism have changed over the years within the Nordic region and gave some insight into what these changes mean for journalists and journalism researchers.

Dr. From argued that due to globalised culture and changes in the digital landscape, the conceptions of art, culture and aesthetics have changed which have in turn blurred the boundaries between art, culture, lifestyle and consumption. For cultural journalism, these changes mean that the focus and role of cultural journalism has also changed over years. Speaking specifically of Nordic region, these changes have brought some significant developments in the field of cultural journalism in Nordic countries.

Inclusion and Exclusion of Topics

Dr. From stated that historically, the printed press functioned as a tastemaker or marker by ‘promoting’ new cultural topics and excluding other topics like dramatic art. This traditional role of tastemaker in Danish newspapers over centuries continues as such as it uses an inclusive a palette of topics that are covered across the news media and culture is a shared topic of priority as everything can become a cultural story, depending on the genre, framing and personal interests of cultural journalists.

The exclusion of topics and genres results in news media developing distinct cultural profiles or brands by covering specific aspects of culture or by prioritising distinct approaches in this coverage.


Politicisation of Cultural Topics

Continuing with changes in the practices of cultural journalism, another distinctive change that Nordic media has seen over years is in the form of politicisation of cultural topics. This change was visible in the coverage of the 2005 Danish Cartoon Crisis as well as the 2015 shootings in Copenhagen. Dr. From argued that in this respect, the genre of literary journalism in newspapers plays a significant part in turning political topics into cultural journalism.

Mediatization and professionalization of cultural journalism.

The digital media landscape has brought visible changes in cultural journalism in Nordic region. It has added new topics and stylistic formats and has also changed the mediatisation and professionalisation of cultural journalism. According to Dr. From, the news media increasingly perceive cultural journalism as a product that must provide both information, entertainment, service and guide and also sell the newspaper.

New Typologies of Cultural Critics

Beside adding new topics and stylistic forms, Digital platforms have also added new voices on digital platforms which has in turn created new typologies of cultural critics.

With these new voices, a variety of sub-types or -agents with different kinds of authority co-exist in the digital media landscape which challenges the existing hierarchies of authority. This, according to Dr. From, is changing the authority of cultural critics from more rational and traditional forms to also being a question of personal charisma.


You can read more about Dr. From’s research on Cultural Journalism on her home page here

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Tags: cultural journalism, journalism, presentation, Hamburg