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date: 06 April 2020

Lifestyle Journalism

Summary and Keywords

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.

Keywords: lifestyle journalism, service journalism, soft news, journalism studies, journalistic roles

Lifestyle Journalism in a Research Context

The concept of “lifestyle” has a long history and has been explored in several different fields, such as sociology, psychology, cultural studies, and marketing studies. The understanding of the term varies according to the theoretical lens applied. From a marketing perspective, for instance, Hanusch and Hanitzsch (2013) argue that lifestyle refers to patterns of consumption and purchase of goods and products. In the field of sociology and cultural studies, lifestyle is a broader analytical term used to describe and understand how people in modern societies make sense of social processes and construct identities through patterns of taste (e.g., Bourdieu, 1984) and “ways of life” (Williams, 1958). Hanusch and Hanitzsch (2013, p. 945) suggest that lifestyle has three dimensions reflected in the definitions of lifestyle journalism: a formative dimension in which lifestyle provides orientation for the management of self and everyday life, a reflexive dimension referring to a performative perspective of lifestyles, and a dimension of articulation addressing how lifestyles are used as expressions of identity. While such processes may be approached in a variety of settings and media, this article will focus on the journalistic approaches to lifestyle issues, paying special attention to the development and history of lifestyle journalism and exploring how the field is constituted as journalism about lifestyle. While the article will concentrate on lifestyle journalism in the printed press (and not radio and television), it will also discuss the challenge and/or possible reconfiguration represented by the digital media landscape.

The body of research devoted to lifestyle journalism has, until recently, been quite limited and has concentrated on Western countries. However, a broader research agenda is emerging, and so a broad take on lifestyle journalism is presented here, and the research and the literature presented are based on studies that take their point of departure in different media systems and studies of different empirical contexts. Lifestyle journalism here is defined as “a distinct journalistic field that primarily addresses its audiences as consumers, providing them with factual information and advice, often in entertaining ways, about goods and services they can use in their daily lives” (Hanusch, 2012, p. 2). In addition to this, lifestyle journalism will also be considered as a journalistic subfield in which articles and illustrations cover not only consumer products that appeal to different segments of the population and attract advertisers accordingly but also provide different media institutions with specific cultural and political profiles (Kristensen & From, 2012). Additionally, lifestyle journalism provides a point of entry for understanding and analyzing contemporary ways of life and patterns of taste-making and identity construction.

Discussions of lifestyle journalism are often caught up in normative debates about the consequences and importance of “soft news” versus “hard news” in society and in the public sphere. Different reports have, for example, documented this shift toward tabloid news, including lifestyle and entertainment news, at the expense of government and foreign affairs (Plasser, 2005, p. 49). Soft news is, on the one hand, seen as a symbol of the increasing tabloidization and commercialization of news and thus as a serious challenge to political and democratic debate (e.g., Franklin, 1997; Patterson, 2000; Plasser, 2005). On the other hand, because it takes ordinary people’s personal interests seriously, it can be seen as empowering and engaging. Cultural studies scholars have argued that soft news in particular, like popular culture more generally, is an important resource in complex modern societies (e.g., Hartley, 1996, 1999; Hermes, 1998). Hartley (1996, 1999) has analyzed the emergence of journalism as a modern project that cannot be explained without “reference to modernity, including the growth of democratic politics, popular sovereignty, mass citizenship, market economies, corporate and consumer culture” (Hartley, 1999, p. 25). The inference here is that lifestyle journalism is a part of the development of modern journalism—a sense-making practice of modernity, a textual system, in which popular reality is “not an ‘attack’ on or a critique of journalism but an account of why it matters historically” (Hartley, 1999, p. 26). The central argument is that the rise of journalism cannot be explained without reference to the development of modern cultures and societies and thus to the emergence of both political democracy and consumer culture.

This argument suggests that lifestyle journalism is an inevitable part of, and to some extent a necessary resource within, both modernity and modern journalism. The following sections are based on this argument and subsequently trace the historical development of lifestyle journalism and explore its distinguishing features in terms of topics addressed, genres applied, modes of addressing audiences and users, and the roles of lifestyle journalists.

Lifestyle Journalism and Its Cultural and Historical Contexts

Scholarly debates on the origin and rise of lifestyle journalism have identified several historical factors and phases as significant for the development of the field. Research has not yet provided a comprehensive, cross-national study on the historical development of lifestyle journalism, but, for example, Bell and Hallows (2006) and Lewis (2008) have provided historical analyses of lifestyle media content. Other researchers focus on specific lifestyle contributions of historical importance, such as women’s magazines (e.g., Hayashi, 2000; Yang, 1996), while some researchers have included the historical development of lifestyle journalism in their broader historical analyses of journalism as such (Barnhurst & Nerone, 2001). The article is informed by these different contributions.

In research, lifestyle journalism is considered a sub-beat of journalism more generally and is often contextualized by three key developments (Hanusch, 2017; Hanusch & Hanitzsch, 2013): individualization, which is closely interrelated to detraditionalization; changing social values; and processes of mediatization. Moreover, commercialization seems to be an inevitable explanatory frame of the development of lifestyle journalism in the modern industrial society (e.g., Barnhurst & Nerone, 2001).

The earliest examples of lifestyle journalism in the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century have often been associated with the early rise of consumerism and individualization within culture and society. In this phase, decisions were taken by media institutions to organize media content in a range of different sections, including dedicated content for women on the subject of lifestyle. A second phase was marked by more explicit changes of modes of address, with audiences being addressed not only as citizens but increasingly as consumers (e.g., Hanusch et al., 2017). In this phase institutions adopted a more service-oriented approach to their audiences, providing more entertaining content in an increasingly competitive market. The third and contemporary phase of lifestyle journalism has been shaped by the new digital media market, which has allowed new voices to interact with and compete with more journalistic approaches.

The Emergence of Lifestyle Journalism

Many scholars have agreed that the initial phases of lifestyle journalism in a Western context are associated with the rise of consumerism and commercialization, and not least the Industrial Revolution beginning in Great Britain (Lewis, 2008, p. 29), and the launching of magazines (e.g., Hanusch & Hanitzsch, 2013). Jones and Taylor (2013), for example, argue that the subfield of food journalism can be traced back to the early 19th century and that by the late 19th century, writing on food had acquired momentum with a predominantly female readership. This generally points to the launch of women’s pages as the first examples of regular lifestyle journalism in the printed press (e.g., Hayashi, 2000; Yang, 1996). In the early 20th century women took on new economic roles and were increasingly appointed the role of buying commodities for the household (Yang, 1996, p. 366), and publishers consequently developed and popularized women’s pages in order to offer advertisers a concentrated female readership (Yang, 1996). This also implicitly indicates a relation between lifestyle journalism and ideological discourses on gender, and as argued by Fürsich (2012), lifestyle journalism can provide a key entry to the study of existing and historical developments of ideological patterns.

Commercialization and consumerism as driving forces in the development of lifestyle journalism have been discussed in different ways. From a media market perspective, for example, lifestyle journalism has been conceptualized as an increasingly important strategy in a fiercely competitive media market because both advertisers and media institutions acknowledge how the lifestyle beat attracted costumers and readers. Also, Barnhurst and Nerone (2001, p. 245) point to the development of lifestyle sections as related to marketing purposes. They argue that the progression of different segmentation strategies and the organization of topical sections within the American newspapers of the 1920s and 1930s had two features in common. First, they dealt with civil society as opposed to the state or public sphere. In other words, it was a supplement to traditional hard news centered on private, intimate, and cultural matters. Second, these specialized sections were based on an advertising infrastructure, with newspapers developing special sections aligned with new industry offerings and consumer goods. As an illustrative case, newspapers developed automobile sections just as the automobile industry manufactured cars and retailers began to advertise them (Barnhurst & Nerone, 2001, p. 245).

Lifestyle journalism has boomed and changed (e.g., Kristensen & From, 2012) at various historical points, one of these being in the 1950s and 1960s as technological developments allowed newspapers to publish more pages and television and radio to air many more hours. Lifestyle topics were consequently developed even further, and thus in turn more content was required (Hanusch, 2012). Another explanation, among many, of the growth in lifestyle journalism in this period is the growth in leisure time (Lewis, 2008; Roser, 2018), leading to increased consumption of and demand for entertainment and content on lifestyle issues. The relationship between advertising and lifestyle journalism continues to be central to scholarly analyses and journalistic debates (Hanusch et al., 2017).

Lifestyle Journalism Conceptualized as “Service”

Scholars have also pointed to an extraordinary growth in media content on consumer and lifestyle issues in the 1970s and 1980s (e.g., Hanusch et al., 2017, p. 142), a growth that seems to be continuing (Kristensen & From, 2012) also in a global context (Bao, 2014). The scholarly debates on and explanations for the expansion and popularity of lifestyle journalism in the late 20th century are often related to its economic success and cultural impact on peoples’ lives (Hanusch, 2017) and a new wave of consumerism. Jones and Taylor (2013, p. 101) indicate that in the 1980s, writings on food were related not solely to the household but more broadly to a range of lifestyle values, marking a change of social values and a shift away from food as “survival” to food as aesthetic representations of taste and identity. It is thus arguable that lifestyle journalism in this period became even more entertaining and more aestheticized.

The lifestyle journalism of the 1980s and 1990s has often been linked to the umbrella term “service journalism.” Responding to the growth of lifestyle journalism in this period, scholars like Martin Eide and Graham Knight began to examine these types of journalism in greater detail. In their seminal work, Eide and Knight (1999) conceptualize how service journalism represents a journalistic field that differs from traditional hard news in two respects: first, it addresses a “hybrid social identity part citizen, part consumer, part client” (p. 527); second, it is oriented toward resolving the problems of everyday life by publicly addressing the concerns of private lives (p. 529). The notion of a “hybrid social identity” points to how different identity constructions cannot be separated but must be seen as something breaching the public and private. Research on lifestyle journalism often draws on the work of Eide and Knight, and the term service journalism has been important in the scholarly debates on the changed functions of and audience approaches within lifestyle journalism. The increase of lifestyle content in this period is, in some parts of the world, related to how public service media was challenged by a growing number of commercial channels and media products. Hjarvard, for example, argues that service journalism represents an institutional shift toward a greater focus on topics and themes that are based in the media’s own domain and among their own users, rather than being anchored in political institutions. His argument is in line with Eide and Knight that service journalism is “providing life help to the modern human being, who in his/her consumption, career, leisure time and personal development needs guidance to live in a society that is constantly changing” (Hjarvard, 1995, p. 56, my translation).

The conceptualization of service journalism is seemingly related not just to the ever-increasing complexity and reflexivity of modernity but also to formulations of a new social function of the news media, which adjust to and influence the individual lifestyles. Hanitzsch, Löffelholz, and Weaver (2005, p. 109) argue that service journalism represents a shift “away from merely disseminating information to selecting what is relevant” at a time of increasing information overload. This overload of information and a general reformulation of the functions of journalism is especially relevant in the contemporary digital media landscape.

Lifestyle Journalism in a Digital Media Landscape

Following the expansion of service journalism in the 1980s and 1990s, lifestyle journalism in contemporary culture and society—like other forms of journalism—has been transformed by new media platforms and digital technologies that invite market agents and consumers, professionals and non-professionals, to produce lifestyle journalism or something that resembles lifestyle journalism on a variety of platforms. Participatory practices and the decentralization of journalism (e.g., Bruns, 2005; Deuze, 2007) have challenged the position and authority of traditional journalism. For example, social media gives people outside the professional media a voice and radically change the rules and structures of marketing communication. Lifestyle journalism in particular and soft news more generally may constitute a unique field in the digital media landscape compared, because the topics and genres related to these areas are somehow more aligned with the dominating communicative practices and topics debated on participatory online platforms.

It can be argued that lifestyle journalism invites new producers and consumers to produce online content and engage in online conversations. Research undertaken on various subject matters in a digital media landscape has focused on how relations between advertising, journalism, and consumption become redefined. Blogging is a particularly interesting practice, influencing both the development and the authority of lifestyle journalism. Bryan Pirolli (2014), examining travel blogs from an audience perspective, has observed that blogs are increasingly replacing guides and reviews provided by journalists and media institutions, partly because the audience perceives blogs as more authentic. At the same time Pirolli also observes that audiences are using a plurality of sources when they research travel destinations and look for travel information, consulting both non-professional and professional, commercial and non-commercial, information. In this context blogging is regarded as a supplement to existing journalistic formats. Fashion blogging is another case where communication on lifestyle-related topics has circumvented the established hierarchies between professional journalists and ordinary consumers (Rocamora, 2012). Recent research on communication in fashion argue that blogging on fashion is based on the logics of the blog, foregrounding the persona, the blogger, and leaves fashion as subject matter in the periphery. However, blogging more generally also points to the blurring of boundaries between product promotion, journalism, and marketing, because bloggers are not subject to professional ethics (Kristensen & Christensen, 2017, p. 232). Digital media re-actualize or amplify the already blurred boundaries between professionals and non-professionals and between advertising and editorial content, and such processes of blurring are related to the appropriation of constitutive elements from lifestyle journalism. But established media institutions have also adopted the blogging genre (Usher, 2012), integrating it with their professional coverage of lifestyle journalism. Outlets like Vice News provide another interesting example of online community-building combining lifestyle and news for a young audience by fusing journalistic genres with more conversational stylistic formats (e.g., Bødker, 2017).

These quite different examples point to an ongoing exchange of genres and topics between professionals and non-professionals, between formal and informal styles of communicating—and, of course, between commercial and editorial content in a contemporary setting.

Constituting Features in Lifestyle Journalism

Lifestyle journalism can in overall terms be characterized by its roots in civil society and by its relations to advertising and typically by affiliations with “soft news” rather than “hard news.” At least three features, however, seem to make lifestyle a distinct journalistic field: the topics, the production processes, and the genres all seem to be central to the definition of lifestyle journalism.

Lifestyle journalism is, first, often associated with “specialist journalism” (Turner & Orange, 2013) and related to consumer goods, more specifically to subfields such as travel; fashion and beauty; health, wellness, and fitness; food, cuisine, and cooking; interior design/living and gardening; parenting and family; people and celebrity; and personal technology (see also e.g., Hanusch & Hanitzsch, 2013, p. 947). Some scholars also include topics related to arts and cultural journalism such as music journalism (Fürsich, 2012) in the field of lifestyle journalism. In line with this, it has also been argued that topics traditionally associated with fine arts and cultural journalism can be transformed into subjects for lifestyle journalism depending on the use of angles, sources, genres, and stylistic formats (Kristensen & From, 2012). It can be argued, for example, that fashion as subject matter in one context can be approached as a business (focusing, e.g., on the success of different brands) or as a social issue (e.g., child labor in developing countries). In another context fashion can be presented as “news you can use” (Underwood, 2001), guiding consumers on the new colors of the season (From, 2007). Finally, fashion can be addressed as a representation of identity and as a symbolic marker of taste and lifestyle (Jansson, 2002; Kristensen, 2010). In line with this, it has been demonstrated how the priority of specific topics and approaches within a competitive media market may provide the media institutions with a distinct profile and thus that the beats have a branding potential (Kristensen & From, 2012). To put it another way, giving priority to specific soft news subareas such as food, cars, fashion, design, interior design/living, and travel may be a way of branding newspapers in an increasingly pressured news media landscape (Kristensen & From, 2012, p. 27), because readers will know that the newspaper will have coverage of a specific sub-beat of interest.

Second, production processes and matters of temporality are relevant and characteristic features of lifestyle journalism (Kristensen & From, 2012). On the one hand, most stories relate to and rely on specific seasons or launch dates—e.g., fashion weeks, Christmas or seasonal traditions, gardening, travel seasons. On the other hand, lifestyle stories typically do not represent breaking news and so are not disruptions of daily life (Kristensen & From, 2012). Rather, they represent human interest stories in contemporary culture and society—stories that could be published at any time of the year. These human interest stories can include themes like parental issues or health questions. They guide and invite the individual reader/user to reflect on everyday problems and solutions, and they can be published whenever suitable.

Third, a constitutive element of lifestyle journalism is the use of specific genres. Some of the well-known genres of traditional journalism—news, interviews, and features—are also used in lifestyle journalism. Through the use of these genres, lifestyle journalism covers various lifestyle topics and provides entertainment, reflects on taste cultures and the links between consumer goods and lifestyle segments, and provides guidance for individual consumers’ private lives. Specialized genres—reviews, tests, and guides—are however distinguishing formats within the field. Both reviews and tests are evaluative formats that can be distinguished in line with Grant Blank’s (2007) work on the sociology of reviews within a larger institutionalized “rating system.” Blank’s work is based on analyses of reviews of personal technology and of restaurants. He suggests that reviews can be characterized as either “connoisseurial reviews” or “procedural reviews”: the “connoisseurial review” draws on the unique skills and expertise of the journalist, while “procedural reviews” are based on test results (Blank, 2007, p. 16). Both approaches have long constituted generic features in lifestyle journalism, and both have been targeted by critical voices arguing that lifestyle journalism has overly close ties to the market and non-transparent relations to advertisers and sponsors in a way that is different from the realm of “real,” objective, and balanced journalism (Hanusch et al., 2017). It could be argued that the “test” is a more objective genre than the subjective review, but research indicates that journalistic writing on cars, for example, frequently reuses tests provided by manufacturers, with pieces based on experiences on the road, confirming a more subjective writing position (Noakes, 2013).

Reviews and tests exemplify more concrete manifestations of the overall aim of lifestyle journalism—to guide people in their everyday life—and thus point to advice as a more general feature within the specific field. Fürsich (2012, p. 14) argues that advice in lifestyle journalism in general and on different media platforms can be specified through four subgenres, which are connected to the relationship between journalists, experts, and recipients. First, she identifies a subgenre in which journalists define problems and select elite experts for advice. The illustrating example here is psychological pieces in women’s magazines. The second subgenre is based on interaction between users or audiences, with journalists or editors taking up cases provided by readers or audiences in letters to the editor or reader columns, and facilitating experts or journalists for solutions. In the third subgenre, journalists are the mediators or facilitators of solutions. Here audiences identify problems and journalists select other ordinary people—non-professionals—to provide solutions to the problems identified. Fourth, Fürsich identifies a subgenre of advice journalism in which the journalist only plays a minor role, where “the journalists step back as mediators of a community of lay experts. Certain types of internet forums on consumer issues are an example here” (2012, p. 14). This last category, it can be argued, challenges traditional understandings of journalistic practice because of the lack of editorial decision-making, which points to new functions for journalists in the digital media landscape. However, this last subgenre of guidance also suggests new ways for service journalists to connect with audiences and may even lead to the creation of new types of communities (Usher, 2012).

Hard News Adopting Service Journalism Features

While advice and guidance are well-established aspects of lifestyle journalism, we also see a broader and renewed interest in aspects of guidance that in some respects may be related to the changed “social function of news” (Hanitzsch et al., 2005). Scholars have argued that new journalistic formats traditionally associated with “political news” reporting are beginning to adopt more entertaining features such as political satire (Hanusch, 2017), but also elements associated with the principles and frames that constitute lifestyle and service journalism (From & Kristensen, 2018). “Constructive journalism” (e.g., Haagerup, 2017; MacIntyre & Sobel, 2017) is then an example of a new trend in journalism, combining hard news reporting with journalistic roles and framing traditionally associated with lifestyle and service journalism.

Constructive journalism aims to provide a new type of journalism which, rather than focusing on negativity and conflicts in society, seeks to empower audiences by providing solutions and guidance in a highly complex modern world. So far, the mainly practice-based literature focuses almost exclusively on how constructive journalism can deal with social and political issues. In its scope and critique, however, constructive journalism represents an alternative to traditional hard news. Because constructive journalism seems to repeat or reuse some of the approaches used in these softer types of journalism—in content and genres, in the guidance offered to audiences, and in providing solutions—From and Kristensen (2018) argue that it can be seen as a continuation of service journalism and journalism into the fields of culture, lifestyle, and consumption (Kristensen & From, 2012, 2015). These studies point to the ways in which service journalism can serve as a more general point of departure for the study of the increasingly blurred boundaries between hard and soft news, as well as showing the importance of giving priority to the study of the journalistic approaches associated with service and lifestyle journalism.

In relation to this, Usher (2012) has demonstrated how stories on financial and technological issues can be analyzed as examples of service and community journalism and therefore as illustrations of how a hard news topic can be transformed into and framed as service—and therefore soft—news (From & Kristensen, 2018). Taking her point of departure from the New York Times special online sections on consumer technology and personal finances, Usher argues that these news fields have changed in the era of Web 2.0, and that service journalists have become the facilitators of an online community focused around the news they cover (2012, p. 107). Usher’s analysis of the “Your Money” section demonstrates that service journalism here represents a distinct form of journalism, intended to help people make decisions. Journalists in this context are acting as agents for people who would not ordinarily have access to management and executives and “can be the first testers for products, or provide information that ordinary people do not have time to research on their own” (Usher, 2012, p. 119). The analysis reveals central characteristics of both service journalism as an umbrella term and lifestyle journalism as a distinct journalistic beat and argues that the journalistic practices used in these special New York Times sections illustrate new relationships between journalists and audiences. The direct online communication and the conversational style here distinguish the service-journalistic practices observed in the late 20th century. Usher argues, however, that journalists do not see these changes as a decline in journalism, but rather as holding up the standards of journalism. Thus the journalism provided in this context exemplifies Fürsich’s (2012) typology of guidance, which stresses how journalists facilitate new forums and communities based in service ideals and service journalism.

These competing considerations on the existing demarcations of lifestyle journalism demonstrate, on the one hand, that specific subject matters and some genres have been more or less explicitly identified as essential to lifestyle journalism. On the other hand, scholars have also argued that the boundaries between genres such as the review and the test but also between specific subject matters, such as fine arts and lifestyle journalism or between traditional business/hard news and service/soft news, are becoming increasingly blurred. Theoretically, scholars have explained and contextualized these blurring boundaries by media-institutional changes that reflect more far-reaching sociocultural transformations as well as the close connections between media, economics, and cultural processes in Western societies and cultures (e.g., Kristensen & From, 2012). However, following Usher (2012), technological change may also be fundamentally reshaping our understanding of service journalism—not just the altered relationship between journalists and their audiences but also how journalists in this context perceive their journalistic roles.

Journalistic Roles in Lifestyle Journalism

From a theoretical perspective, scholars have argued that lifestyle journalists are what Bourdieu would term “cultural intermediaries” (Fürsich, 2012, p. 13). From this perspective, lifestyle journalists become central agents in the ongoing negotiation of taste cultures—for example, in the dichotomies between elitist and popular cultures. The concept may contribute to the analysis of how lifestyle journalists (1) engage in the mediation of cultural products and actors, (2) frame cultural products in cultural, social, and political settings, and (3) impact on constructions of legitimacy and taste in the public sphere (Maguire & Matthews, 2012).

Cultural intermediaries, according to Bourdieu, include not only the producers of cultural programs on TV and radio but the critics of “quality” newspapers and magazines and all writer-journalists and journalist-writers (1984, p. 325). This definition has, however, been criticized as too restrictive on the grounds that cultural intermediation takes place in a number of different settings and through the instrumentality of many different agents. Maguire and Matthews argue that all kinds of tastemakers who define what counts as good taste should be included in the definition of cultural intermediaries (2014, p. 1). This broader definition seems relevant to the study of lifestyle journalists, not least in a digital media landscape where journalists in general and lifestyle journalists in particular only make up some of the voices and genres. Various forms of blogs play a central role among other types of cultural intermediaries. The professionals of advertising, public relations, branding, arts promotion, fashion, and fitness also play a central role in tastemaking and communication (Maguire & Matthews, 2014). For Matthews, studying journalists as cultural intermediaries paves the way for a new approach to the study of journalism in a field where researchers have previously concentrated on identifying a range of organizational, political, economic, and cultural factors that impact on and limit journalistic autonomy in the production of journalistic texts (Matthews, 2014, p. 146). In line with these perspectives, Sparre and From (2017), writing in a British, Swedish, and Danish context about the Danish TV series Borgen, have demonstrated how journalists act as arbiters and legitimizers both of cultural tastes and of lifestyles. The textual analyses illustrate how a TV series came not only to be evaluated and reviewed as a cultural product but to mediate examples of good taste, including guides on hairstyle or where to travel.

In this context, the concept of cultural intermediaries refers to the complex roles performed by lifestyle journalists, who, on the one hand, promote cultural goods and, on the other, act as journalists evaluating and writing about cultural values. The concept highlights, in other words, how lifestyle journalists act as arbiters of taste cultures (Fürsich, 2012, p. 13) within a professional context in which the journalist claims professional expertise.

However, most studies on the role of lifestyle journalists have not constructed the journalist as cultural intermediary as the theoretical point of departure. Rather, they have focused on institutional perspectives and the professional roles of lifestyle journalists, contributing important empirical knowledge on journalists’ self-perceptions and the rather complex role-performances and practices that lifestyle journalists have to navigate on a daily basis. A significant observation in, for example, Hanusch’s (2010) outline of travel journalism is that for a range of different reasons, lifestyle journalists represent a more heterogeneous group than news journalists (see also Hanusch, 2017). They may be freelancers doing lifestyle journalism as one job among others, and they have to pay special attention to the close ties between advertisers and media, which requires a distinct understanding of ethical standards and journalistic autonomy. In a comparative in-depth study of Australian and German lifestyle journalists, including both freelancers and journalists with permanent positions, Hanusch et al. (2017, p. 154) argue that the journalists often find themselves challenged by business norms defined by both advertising and audiences and that they consequently struggle to maintain their journalistic integrity. Acknowledging the importance of the income generated by advertising, they find themselves in a position between resistance and resignation. The study also, however, reveals some variety between specialized subfields by identifying areas such as travel, personal technology, and fashion as particularly affected by commercial influence. In addition to this, the study also indicates that financially relatively insecure organizations may be more affected than others, such as public service organizations. The study also demonstrates how the journalists stress the importance of their role as evaluators and advisers and thus how the role of lifestyle journalist may contrast with other roles occupied by cultural intermediaries with even more unclear connections between advertisers and communicators—as may be the case with bloggers, for example.

Moreover, lifestyle journalists are in a different position from news journalists because they take up more entertaining roles that serve consumer interests rather than public interests (Hanusch, 2010). More specifically, it has been suggested that lifestyle journalists’ role-perceptions can be placed on a very wide spectrum, including the provision of entertainment and relaxation; service, advice, and “news you can use”; orientation in daily life; inspiration and a positive attitude toward life; and exemplars of desired lifestyle (Hanusch & Hanitzsch, 2013, p. 956). Similarly, another body of research (Hanusch, 2017) documents that lifestyle journalists perceive their roles as service providers (acting on behalf of a hybrid social identity part citizen, consumer, and client by critically addressing all kinds of lifestyle matters), as life coaches (motivating the audience to a positive lifestyle), as community advocates (creating communities and facilitating forums for people who share specific interests), and as inspiring entertainers (providing feel-good journalism and relaxation). The analyses of the role perceptions, on the one hand, confirm why and how lifestyle journalism is defined as “what it is not” and “outside the normative ideal of journalism.” It also shows how lifestyle journalism as an example of how journalists can and do address audiences as both citizens and consumers in a variety of journalistic fields (Hanusch, 2017).

Existing and Future Research on Lifestyle Journalism

Lifestyle journalism is a relatively neglected field of study within journalism, although a research agenda is now beginning to emerge. However, even though an emerging interest in and research on lifestyle journalism can now be identified, considerable gaps remain in specific fields of inquiry. Among these gaps are contributions on the development of lifestyle journalism outside the Western media markets as well as on the usage of lifestyle journalism. In addition, future research should also—in various national and cultural contexts—explore how lifestyle journalism is developing in a digital media culture and media market in which journalistic autonomy and the role of journalism are being reconfigured and renegotiated by both consumers and producers.

As a supplement or corrective to Western research, we are beginning to see research on lifestyle and consumer cultures in many different cultural contexts. On the basis of in-depth interviews with Chinese lifestyle journalists, Li (2012) argues that lifestyle journalism is a rising phenomenon in China and that it has an important social role to play. It is also asserted, in line with other scholarly debates on the role of lifestyle journalists (e.g., Hanusch, 2017; Hanusch & Hanitzsch, 2013), that these journalists share professional ethics and practices with those who produce hard news. The main focus of analysis, however, has been the magazine press, opening up questions about if and how lifestyle aspects are becoming incorporated into general news in China. A broader understanding here of the development of non-Western lifestyle journalism would be welcome.

Studies have rarely, with few exceptions (e.g., Pirolli, 2014), focused on audience perspectives related to lifestyle journalism. Scholars have, however, argued that lifestyle journalism or service journalism exemplifies a more general aspect of contemporary journalism—addressing the audience as a hybrid identity (Eide & Knight, 1999; Mellado & Van Dalen, 2017). In line with this, lifestyle and consumer journalism provide a variety of reading positions, stipulating utility, reflection, and entertainment, positions related to different and overlapping identity constructions (e.g., client, consumer, and hedonist; From, 2007, p. 35). These different aspects point to the blurred boundaries between journalistic formats and audience identities. It would be productive for further research to focus on (and supplement the more theoretical reflections on the reception and use of empirical research) audiences—specifically, how audiences conceive of and negotiate these hybrid approaches and how they use lifestyle journalism in particular and communication on lifestyle issues more broadly.

Third, further research could also address how the reformulated boundaries between consumers and producers impact upon lifestyle journalism in a digital media landscape. Some future research projects and questions arising in the context of the digital media landscape and lifestyle journalism have already been raised here. However, precisely because lifestyle journalism can be seen as a subfield representing new trends and directions distinctive to journalism in general, lifestyle journalism is an important case for study.

Further Reading

Bell, D., & Hollows, J. (2005). Ordinary lifestyles: Popular media, consumption and taste. Maidenhead, UK: Open University PressFind this resource:

Eide, M., & Knight, G. (1999). Public/Private: Service journalism and the problems of everyday life. European Journal of Communication, 14(4), 525–547.Find this resource:

Eide, M. (2017). The culture of service journalism. In N. N. Kristensen & K. Riegert (Eds.). Cultural journalism in the Nordic countries (pp. 195–204). Göteborg, Sweden: Nordicom.Find this resource:

Fürsich, E. (2012). Lifestyle journalism as popular journalism. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 12–25.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F. (2010). The dimensions of travel journalism. Journalism Studies, 11(1), 68–82.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F. (2017). Journalistic roles and everyday life: An empirical account of lifestyle journalists’ professional views. Journalism Studies.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F., & Fürsich, E. (Eds.). (2014). Travel journalism. Exploring production, impact and culture. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F., & Hanitzsch, T. (2013). Mediating orientation and self-expression in the world of consumption: Australian and German lifestyle journalists’ professional views. Media, Culture & Society, 35(8), 943–959.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F., Hanitzsch, T., & Lauerer, C. (2017). How much love are you going to give this brand? Lifestyle journalists on commercial influences in their work. Journalism, 18(2), 141–158.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F. (2012). Broadening the focus: The case for lifestyle journalism as a field of scholarly inquiry. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 2–11.Find this resource:

Kristensen, N. N., & From, U. (2012). Lifestyle journalism: Blurring boundaries. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 26–41.Find this resource:

Turner, B., & Orange, R. (2013). Specialist journalism. London: Routledge.Find this resource:


Bao, J. (2014). Going with the flow: Chinese travel journalism in transition. In F. Hanusch & E. Fürsich (Eds.), Travel journalism. Exploring production, impact and culture (pp. 134–151). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

Barnhurst, K., & Nerone, J. (2001). The form of news. New York: Guilford.Find this resource:

Bell, D., & Hallows, J. (2006). Historicizing lifestyle: Mediating taste, consumption and identity from the 1900s to 1970s. Burlington, UK: Ashgate.Find this resource:

Blank, G. (2007). Critics, ratings, and society: The sociology of reviews. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Find this resource:

Bødker, H. (2017). Vice Media Inc.: Youth, lifestyle—and news. Journalism, 18(1), 27–43.Find this resource:

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Find this resource:

Bruns, A. (2005). Gatewatching: Collaborative online news production. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Deuze, M. (2007). Media work. Cambridge: Polity.Find this resource:

Eide, M., & Knight, G. (1999). Public/Private: Service journalism and the problems of everyday life. European Journal of Communication, 14(4), 525–547.Find this resource:

Franklin, B. (1997). Newszak and news media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

From, U. (2007). Forbruger- og Livsstilsjournalistik. Mediekultur, 27, 35–45.Find this resource:

From, U., & Kristensen, N. (2018). Rethinking Constructive Journalism by Means of Service Journalism. Journalism Practice, 12(6), 714–729.Find this resource:

Fürsich, E. (2012). Lifestyle journalism as popular journalism. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 12–25.Find this resource:

Fürsich, E., & Kavoori, A. P. (2001). Mapping a critical framework for the study of travel journalism. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 4(2), 149–171.Find this resource:

Haagerup, U. (2017). Constructive news. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.Find this resource:

Hanitzsch, T., Löffelholz, M., & Weaver, H. D. (2005). Building a home for the study of journalism: ICA creates a journalism studies interest group. Journalism, 6(1), 107–115.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F. (2010). The dimensions of travel journalism. Journalism Studies, 11(1), 68–82.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F. (2012). Broadening the focus: The case for lifestyle journalism as a field of scholarly inquiry. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 2–11.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F. (2017). Journalistic roles and everyday life: An empirical account of lifestyle journalists’ professional views. Journalism Studies.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F., & Hanitzsch, T. (2013). Mediating orientation and self-expression in the world of consumption: Australian and German lifestyle journalists’ professional views. Media, Culture & Society, 35(8), 943–959.Find this resource:

Hanusch, F., Hanitzsch, T., & Lauerer, C. (2017). How much love are you going to give this brand? Lifestyle journalists on commercial influences in their work. Journalism, 18(2), 141–158.Find this resource:

Hartley, J. (1996). Popular reality. Journalism, modernity, popular culture. New York: Arnold.Find this resource:

Hartley, J. (1999). What is journalism? The view from under a Stubbie Cap. Media International Australia, 90, 15–33.Find this resource:

Hayashi, K. (2000). The “home and family” section. In C. Sparks & J. Tulloch (Eds.), Tabloid tales (pp. 147–162). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Find this resource:

Hermes, J. (1998). Cultural citizenship and popular fiction. In K. Brants, J. Hermes, & L. Van Zoonen (Eds.), The media in question: Popular cultures and public interests (pp. 156–167). London: SAGE.Find this resource:

Hjarvard, S. (1995). Nyhedsmediernes rolle i det politiske demokrati. Copenhagen: Statsministeriet.Find this resource:

Jansson, A. (2002). The mediatization of consumption: Towards an analytical framework of image culture. Journal of Consumer Culture, 2(5), 5–31.Find this resource:

Jones, S., & Taylor, B. (2013). Food journalism. In B. Turner, & R. Orange (Eds.), Specialist journalism (pp. 96–107). London: Routledge.Find this resource:

Kristensen, N. N. (2010). The historical transformation of cultural journalism. Northern Lights, 8, 69–92.Find this resource:

Kristensen, N. N., & From, U. (2012). Lifestyle journalism: Blurring boundaries. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 26–41.Find this resource:

Kristensen, N. N., & From, U. (2015). Cultural journalism and cultural critique in a changing media landscape. Journalism Practice, 9(6), 760–772.Find this resource:

Kristensen, N. N., & Christensen, C. L. (2017). The mediatization of fashion: The case of fashion blogs. In O. Driessens, G. Bolin, A. Hepp, & S. Hjarvard (Eds.), Dynamics of mediatization. Transforming communications—studies in cross-media research (pp. 225–245). London: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

Lewis, T. (2008). Smart living—Lifestyle media and popular expertise. New York: Peter Lang.Find this resource:

Li, S. (2012). A new generation of lifestyle magazine in China. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 122–137.Find this resource:

Macintyre, K., & Sobel, M. (2017). Motivating news audiences: Shock them or provide them with solutions? Communication & Society, 30(1), 39–56.Find this resource:

Maguire, J. S., & Matthews, J. (2012). Are we all cultural intermediaries now? An introduction to cultural intermediaries in context. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(5), 551–562.Find this resource:

Maguire, J. S., & Matthews, J. (2014). The cultural intermediaries reader. London: SAGE.Find this resource:

Matthews, J. (2014). Journalism. In J. S. Maguire & J. Matthews (Eds.), The cultural intermediaries reader (pp. 145–155). London: SAGE.Find this resource:

McIntyre, K. (2015). Constructive journalism: The effects of positive emotions and solution information in news stories. Doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.Find this resource:

Mellado, C., & van Dalen, A. (2017). Challenging the citizen–consumer journalistic dichotomy: A news content analysis of audience approaches in Chile. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 94(1), 213–237.Find this resource:

Noakes, A. (2013). Automotive journalism. In B. Turner & R. Orange (Eds.), Specialist journalism (pp. 69–78). London: Routledge.Find this resource:

Patterson, T. E. (2000). Doing well and doing good: How soft news are shrinking the news audience and weakening democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Find this resource:

Pirolli, B. (2014). Travel journalism in flux: New practices in the blogosphere. In F. Hanusch & E. Fürsich (Eds.), Travel journalism. Exploring production, impact and culture (pp. 83–98). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

Plasser, F. (2005). From hard to soft news standards? How political journalists in different media systems evaluate the shifting quality of news. Press/Politics, 10(2), 47–68.Find this resource:

Rocamora, A. (2012). Hypertextuality and remediation in the fashion media. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 92–106.Find this resource:

Roser, M. (2018). Working Hours. Published online at Online Resource.Find this resource:

Sjøvaag, H. (2015). Hard news/soft news: The hierarchy of genres and the boundaries of the profession. In M. Carlson & S. Lewis (Eds.), Boundaries of journalism: Professionalism, practices and participation (pp. 101–117). New York: Routledge.Find this resource:

Sparre, K., & From, U. (2017). Journalists as tastemakers. An analysis of the coverage of the TV series Borgen in a British, Swedish and Danish newsbrand. In N. N. Kristensen & K. Riegert (Eds.), Cultural journalism in the Nordic countries (pp. 195–204). Göteborg, Sweden: Nordicom.Find this resource:

Turner, B., & Orange, R. (2013). Specialist journalism. London: Routledge.Find this resource:

Underwood, D. (2001). Reporting and the push for market-oriented journalism: Media organizations as businesses. In L. Bennett & R. Entman (Eds.), Mediated politics. Communication in the future democracy (pp. 99–117). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

Usher, N. (2012). Service journalism as community experience. Journalism Practice, 6(1), 107–121.Find this resource:

Yang, M. (1996). Women’s pages or people’s pages: The production of news for women in the Washington Post in the 1950s. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 73(2), 364–378.Find this resource:

Williams, R. (1958). Culture and society. London: Chatto & Windus.Find this resource: