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.
Diasporic news refers to information, entertainment, and education news that is politically, economically, and socioculturally relevant to diaspora audiences. This news content is produced by diasporic news media established for and by diasporic groups. According to scholars, diasporic media plays two broad roles: an orientation role relating to information and advice to help diasporic groups adjust to the host country and a connective role relating to information about events in the homeland. The affordability of new media technology spurred the growth of diasporic media making countless platforms available to diaspora groups to disseminate their views via the legacy media of print, radio, and television; and via the new media of Internet and social media. However, their business model is still preedominantly independent and small scale, and their printed edition is circulated mostly through alternative distribution outlets such as grocery shops, churches, restaurants, and airports. Their practitioners subscribe broadly to the tenets of journalistic professionalism, but these are discursively reinterpreted, appropriated and contested in line with the cultural sensibilities of diaspora audiences. On their part, the diaspora audiences use them as a platform for political activism; to connect with their group members; to watch movies and listen to music. But in recent times, the home governments are using them to tap into the diaspora resources including remittances and skills transfer.
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.
News aggregation—or the process of taking news from published sources, reshaping it, and republishing it in an abbreviated form within a single place—has become one of the most prominent journalistic practices in the current digital news environment. It has long been an important part of journalism, predating reporting as a form of newsgathering and distribution. But it has often been a poorly, or at best incompletely, understood practice. Aggregation was widespread in the 18th and 19th centuries through copying and republishing of newspaper articles in ways that sometimes showed little regard for copyright or individual authorship. But in recent decades, more sophisticated forms of aggregation have proliferated, both automated and manual, and on virtually every digital platform on which news is disseminated. Aggregation draws from the norms and values of both modern professional journalism and Internet culture and writing. That amalgam of standards and practices shapes aggregation as a hybrid practice that is built on professional journalism yet marginal within it. News aggregators’ economic effect on the online news marketplace has been intensely debated, but research has shown them to be generally helpful to the news sites they aggregate from, expanding the news ecosystem and sending readers through hyperlinks. Their legal legitimacy has also come under scrutiny, though they have encountered significantly more restrictions in Europe than in the United States or elsewhere. Professionally, aggregation is built on the practices of reporting and relies on reporting as both the predominant source of its information and the blueprint for its methods of verification. But its defining characteristic is its secondary status relative to reporting, which shapes its methods of gathering evidence as well as its professional identity and values. Overall, news aggregation plays a growing role in the contemporary news environment, though its influence is complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous.
The notion of professionalism within journalism is widespread and has been thoroughly explored. “Professionalism” refers to a normative value system utilized by professionals in relation to their clients, work practices, and occupational socialization. The perspective implies a number of characteristics distinguishing professions from occupations: autonomy, exclusive knowledge, ethical codes of conduct, occupational ideals/culture, and altruistic features (i.e., to act in the public interest). Jointly, these values function as a framework for journalists in everyday practice, guiding and controlling them. In a Western context, this framework legitimizes the social contract that allows journalism the privilege of autonomy and self-regulation on a structural level. The professionalism of journalists has been empirically studied since the 1950s, and the field is constantly expanding. Similar popular conceptualizations when interrogating the norms, practice, and ideals of journalists include, for instance, “role,” “habitus,” “interpretive community,” “ideology,” and “culture.” However, the major body of journalism studies has tried to capture those aspects from a perspective of professional theory. Today, the professional status of journalists is challenged and questioned. Exclusivity is broken, autonomy declines, and other actors are increasingly redefining the field. In this context, new methods and ideals arise. The professional discourse of journalists evolves and adapts in new ways, as does the research in this area.
Professional roles are a key topic in journalism research along with the fundamental elements in defining journalism as a profession. For many decades, scholars have devoted their efforts to analyzing normative standards and journalistic ideals, while their analysis through the lens of professional performance has remained in the background. Nevertheless, considerably more attention has been paid over the past decade to the theorization of the different concepts in play when analyzing professional roles in journalism, especially the study of journalistic role performance (i.e., the manifestation of professional roles in both news decisions and the news outcome that reaches the public). Studies on journalistic role performance are able to tell us how or to what extent news professionals have enough autonomy for their role conceptions or perceptions to be manifested in journalistic practices, as well as in the news product made available to the public. So far, research on journalistic role performance has systematically found patterns of multilayered hybridization in journalistic cultures across and within advanced, transitional, and non-democratic countries. Several studies have also shown significant discrepancies depending on societal, organizational, and individual factors, as well as a wide gap between journalistic ideals and professional practices. Some of these studies have also found significant discrepancies between journalists’ role conceptions and their perceived role enactments. Future studies need to address the intrinsic capacity of social media platforms to deinstitutionalize communication through parallel channels, which may turn out to be a crucial element when it comes to performing both traditional and new journalistic roles.