Fake news is not new, but the American presidential election in 2016 placed the phenomenon squarely onto the international agenda. Manipulation, disinformation, falseness, rumors, conspiracy theories—actions and behaviors that are frequently associated with the term—have existed as long as humans have communicated. Nevertheless, new communication technologies have allowed for new ways to produce, distribute, and consume fake news, which makes it harder to differentiate what information to trust. Fake news has typically been studied along four lines: Characterization, creation, circulation, and countering. How to characterize fake news has been a major concern in the research literature, as the definition of the term is disputed. By differentiating between intention and facticity, researchers have attempted to study different types of false information. Creation concerns the production of fake news, often produced with either a financial, political, or social motivation. The circulation of fake news refers to the different ways false information has been disseminated and amplified, often through communication technologies such as social media and search engines. Lastly, countering fake news addresses the multitude of approaches to detect and combat fake news on different levels, from legal, financial, and technical aspects to individuals’ media and information literacy and new fact-checking services.
Journalism’s “social contract” refers to journalism’s role in democracy, primarily its obligations to inform the public and scrutinize government. The notion of a contract, however, entails the exchange of rights and obligations for mutual benefit. In this exchange, journalism enjoys the rights to free expression and publication, and it is obliged to cover the world fairly and accurately, providing citizens with the information they need to perform their roles as citizens. The notion of a social contract of the press is primarily rooted in liberal philosophy, though there is also a moral side to the contract that can be traced to republican theories of democracy. The question of reciprocity is central to the research on journalism’s social contract, primarily on the relationship between journalists and audiences, an area of research that is gaining traction as networked public spheres grow in importance as new venues of audience participation. Although the notion of a social contract is most visible in discussions of journalism ethics and professional practice, democratic media models also assume that journalism’s social contract constitutes an important conduit of democratic processes. As such, journalism’s social contract largely describes normative dimensions of journalism’s role in society, primarily embedded in notions related to the quality of information and an informed citizenry.
Lifestyle journalism is a significant and very substantial field of journalism. Unlike other fields of journalism, however, it has not been the focus of much scholarly debate. Providing audiences as it does with “news you can use,” it is often considered a supplement to breaking news, political news, and news on social and cultural conflicts. Lifestyle journalism has frequently been defined in opposition to the normative ideal of journalism and therefore in terms of what it is not. This means that it has often been defined from within other journalistic fields, or as a fusion of journalistic elements such as soft news, service journalism, consumer journalism, popular journalism, or even cultural journalism. Lifestyle journalism has also been an umbrella term for more specialized beats of journalism such as travel journalism, fashion journalism, or food journalism. But while lifestyle journalism is partly defined by the topics addressed, it is also characterized by specific genres or modes of addressing the audience (as consumers, for example). Common to a lot of characterizations is a strong connection with advertising and public relations, which means that lifestyle journalists often have been accused of running the errands of the market. For this reason the journalistic role and the self-perceptions of journalists in this field have been a special point of interest in the scholarly debate. In addition to being challenged from within journalism, the legitimacy is also challenged by the many new voices that participate in the field of lifestyle issues in a digital media landscape, a participation that increasingly blurs the boundaries between professionals and non-professionals.
The field of lifestyle journalism is, however, itself characterized by blurred boundaries, both between the various subfields and between soft and hard news. Genres traditionally used in hard news, for example, have been adapted to soft news, and topics such as health can in one context be presented as “soft news” (e.g., “how to improve your health”) but in others as “hard news” (e.g., “smoking causes economic expenses”). The relatively new practice of constructive journalism can serve as a case of how approaches associated with lifestyle and service journalism have migrated to more traditional hard news fields.
Jesper Strömbäck and Adam Shehata
Political journalism constitutes one of the most prominent domains of journalism, and is essential for the functioning of democracy. Ideally, political journalism should function as an information provider, watchdog, and forum for political discussions, thereby helping citizens understand political matters and help prevent abuses of power. The extent to which it does is, however, debated. Apart from normative ideals, political journalism is shaped by factors at several levels of analysis, including the system level, the media organizational level, and the individual level. Not least important for political journalism is the close, interdependent, and contentious relationship with political actors, shaping both the processes and the content of political journalism.
In terms of content, four key concepts in research on political journalism in Western democratic systems are the framing of politics as a strategic game, interpretive versus straight news, conflict framing and media negativity, and political or partisan bias. A review of research related to these four concepts suggests that political journalism has a strong tendency to frame politics as a strategic game rather than as issues, particularly during election campaigns; that interpretive journalism has become more common; that political journalism has a penchant for conflict framing and media negativity; and that there is only limited evidence that political journalism is influenced by political or partisan bias. Significantly more important than political or partisan bias are different structural and situational biases. In all these and other respects, there are important differences across countries and media systems, which follows from the notion that political journalism is always influenced by the media systems in which it is produced and consumed.
Mart Ots and Robert G. Picard
Due to its function as a watchdog or fourth estate in democratic societies and a variety of commercial challenges, policy-makers have undertaken initiatives to support the production and distribution of news. Press subsidies are one such policy initiative that particularly aims to provide support to private news producers. Paid as direct cash handouts or indirect reduced taxes and fees, they exist in some form in almost every country in the world. Subsidies are not uncontroversial, their effectiveness is unclear, and their magnitude, designs, and areas of application, differ across nations and their unique economic, cultural, and political contexts.
After periods of declining political and public interest in media subsidies, the recent economic crisis of journalism, and the rising influence of various forms of click-bait, fake, native, or biased news on social media platforms, has brought state support of original journalism back on the agenda.
Kristina Riegert, Anna Roosvall, and Andreas Widholm
Cultural journalism is a subfield of journalism that encompasses what is known as arts journalism. While arts journalism is characterized by reviews, critique, news, and essays about the arts and popular culture, cultural journalism has a broader take on culture, including lifestyle issues, societal debate, and reflective ethical discussion by cultural personas or expressed in a literary style. Both arts and cultural journalists see their work as “journalism with a difference,” evoking different perspectives and worldviews from those dominating mainstream news reporting. At the same time, cultural journalism shares with journalism issues like boundary work, genre blurring, digitalization, globalization, professionalization, and “the crisis of journalism.” There are three main ways cultural journalism has been studied: one research strand defines cultural journalism as material produced by the cultural desks or material that is explicitly labelled cultural journalism; another defines it as journalism about culture, regardless of how it is labelled or produced; and a third strand includes only arts journalism, examining journalistic content on the fine arts and popular culture. Studies from all of these approaches are included in this article due to the effort to include a wide variety of countries at different time periods and an effort to track joint defining features and developments in cultural journalism. The emphasis is on the Nordic context, where the term “cultural journalism” is well established and where research is relatively comprehensive. The research is divided into three themes: the cultural public sphere and the contribution to democracy; cultural journalism’s professionalism and the challenges of digitalization; and transnational and global aspects of cultural journalism, including tendencies such as cultural homogenization and hybridization.
International research on cultural journalism as a subfield has been complicated by its varying designations (arts journalism, feuilleton, journalism about culture, entertainment), and its numerous aesthetic forms, disciplines, or types of culture, all of which are changing over time. Despite these issues, research points in the same direction: the amount of cultural journalism is increasing, and the boundaries against other types of journalism are becoming more porous. There is also a decline in editorial autonomy. In common with journalism, there is an increase in generalists working with culture and greater central managerial control in new multiplatform media organizations. The research points to an increase in a more transnationally oriented cultural journalism, mainly through a larger share of cultural news and popular culture—while its core, review and critique, has changed in character, or arguably lost ground. The increasing “newsification” of cultural journalism should prompt future research on whether the “watchdog” role vis-à-vis the cultural industries is growing. New forms of art and culture are beginning to get coverage, but also, in some cases, the intermixing of “lifestyle” with cultural journalism. The commercialization and celebrity aspects of this are clear, but new digital platforms have also enabled new voices and different formats of cultural journalism and a wider dissemination and intensity in cultural debates, all of which emphasize its democratic potential. New research on this subject appears to focus on the longitudinal changes in cultural journalism, the implications of digitalization and globalization, and cultural journalism in broadcasting.
Feature journalism has developed from being a marginal and subordinate supplement to (hard) news in newspapers to becoming a significant part of journalism on all platforms. It emerged as a key force driving the popularization and tabloidization of the press.
Feature journalism can be defined as a family of genres that share a common exigence, understood as a publicly recognized need to be entertained and connected with other people on a mainly emotional level by accounts of personal experiences that are related to contemporary events of perceived public interest. This exigence is articulated through three characteristics that have dominated feature journalism from the very beginning: It is intimate, in the sense that it portrays people and milieus in close detail and that it allows the journalist to be subjective and therefore intimate with his or her audience; it is literary in the sense that it is closely connected with the art of writing, narrativity, storytelling, and worlds of fiction; and it is adventurous, in the sense that it takes the audiences on journeys to meet people and places that are interesting.
Traditional and well-established genres of feature journalism include the human-interest story, feature reportage, and the profile, which all promote subjectivity and emotions as key ingredients in feature journalism in contrast to the norm of objectivity found in professional news journalism. Feature journalism therefore establishes a conflict of norms that has existed throughout the history of journalism.
Feature journalism has become an increasingly popular part of digital news outlets. Online newspapers have experimented with digital formats for feature journalism since the late 1990s, first with technology-driven multimedia feature journalism and later with story-driven long-form feature journalism. Since 2010, podcasts and online templates for long-form journalism have increased the popularity of digital feature journalism.
Siebert, Peterson, and Schramm’s Four Theories of the Press has been a powerful influence on scholarship on comparative press systems and normative press theories in the years since its publication in 1956. Its appeal comes from the way it combined a history of Western development with a normative schema that is simple and teachable. Critics have pointed out the shortcomings of both its historical accounts and its theoretical structure, charging that the book expressed a Cold War mentality, elided non-Western and nonliberal theories and practices, and neglected the complicating dimensions of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Critics also note that actual press systems are usually governed by hybrid norms, and that press systems are increasingly interconnected, overlapping, and global. Yet, Four Theories of the Press retains significant influence despite these criticisms. One reason is that no real replacement has appeared and it is unlikely that a new map of normative theories will win acceptance. The work emerged at a unique moment of Western liberal global hegemony and a successor would require a similar hegemonic moment.
Oscar Westlund and Stephen Quinn
Journalism and news are so much a part of our lives that most societies take them for granted. To access the news, people have traditionally had to pay for newspapers or acquire television and radio receivers with accompanying licenses or cable subscriptions. To a large extent, accessing the news has been connected to specific physical domains, especially the home. The widespread diffusion of computers, the Web, and news sites that started in the mid-1990s has made news increasingly accessible, and over the past decade, mobile news has fueled this even more. Digital technologies have become an accepted part of our lives. Access to news and information is easier than ever, with an abundance of free news via connected and ubiquitous digital platforms. News is expensive to produce, however, creating concerns about future business models to support journalism. It means we cannot take journalism for granted. News media must produce content that is valuable to society.
Mobile devices and different forms of mobile media and communication have become integral parts of contemporary societies. The nexus of mobile media and reporting has become one of the most important developments for journalism. Research into mobile news production falls into two main strands. On the one hand, we find research taking an organizational approach, with studies of intra-organizational collaborations in developments of mobile services, what mobile platforms to use, business model considerations, and so forth. On the other hand, we encounter research focusing more specifically on news production among mobile journalists (so-called MoJos). For the working journalist, the mobile device has become the key tool for gathering information, images, and video, and for communicating with colleagues and sources.
Jannie Møller Hartley
The focus of news-audience research has shifted from investigating news audiences of single platforms—such as newspapers, television, or radio news—to audiences in an inherently cross-media context; and from examining the audience as passive, choosing between content made available for them; to investigating what audiences do with the news more actively, often coined by the term “news engagement.”
News-audience studies can be divided into five approaches: (1) media-effect studies of news consumption; (2) studies of news-media use and motives; (3) cultural audience studies of news practices; (4) news audiences’ comprehension and recall of news; and (5) news engagement in the digital age.
Due to changes in the media landscape, both technological and commercial, traditional analytical models in news-audience research have been challenged. The final discussion addresses how a tendency to focus on either reducing audiences to quantifiable aggregates in big-data research or labeling news audiences as a thing of the past can be observed—in both cases removing news-audience research from actual empirical audiences.