The professionalization of the Finnish cultural journalism, 1978–2008

This study examines the changes in cultural journalism in newspapers in Finland between 1978 and 2008. The object of study is professionalism, its structures and the structural changes in a developing production environment and cultural landscape. Cultural journalism is understood to include the specialized production of journalism published in the culture sections of newspapers. Culture departments in newspapers formed the major forum for cultural coverage during the research period. In the second half of the 20th century, an increasing amount of discourse concerned the crisis of cultural journalism and criticism. The crisis discourse formed the starting point for this study’s inquiry, particularly the question of whether the volume of cultural coverage and reviewing had decreased and whether the aesthetic consciousness of cultural journalism had become lower, as postulated.

The study comprises five journal articles addressing the changes in arts and cultural journalism from different perspectives. In the introduction to the thesis, these different accounts are introduced into a professionalist structures model analysed in Pierre Bourdieu’s framework. The study presents a mixed-method approach using theoretical and methodological triangulation. The core of the empirical research consisted of data gathered through the systematic sampling of culture sections from five Finnish dailies: Aamulehti, Helsingin Sanomat, Kaleva, Savon Sanomat and Turun Sanomat. A quantitative content analysis was complemented and contextualized using data consisting of interviews with culture editors, ethnographical material and textual analysis.

It was confirmed that the traditional high cultural canon had been complemented with a popular cultural canon and that the concept of culture had become more inclusive. The average length of articles became shorter, and the share of reviews went down; of all the journalistic genres, reviews were cut the most in length. The production of reviews was increasingly outsourced, while culture departments took on the responsibility of producing news. Culture departments became closer to other news-oriented departments and lost their specialist autonomy. Thus, a slow heteronomizing process shifted the emphasis of these departments from the aesthetic toward the journalistic paradigm.

However, culture departments still regard news and reviews as the two major genres of cultural journalism. Balancing between information-oriented reporting within the journalistic paradigm and classification-oriented reviewing within the aesthetic paradigm is a core function of these departments, which forms a dualism within the professionalism of cultural journalism. Culture departments attempt to secure internal pluralism by catering to different audiences with different, increasingly omnivorous tastes. The societal function of cultural journalism thus consists of not only the transmission of information in society but also canon-formation and co-creation of the arts classification system. Recent developments in the fields of cultural production and metadiscourse that produce professionalism and its working conditions have led to challenges to the role of the classification function.

The combination of studies was intended to develop a theoretically elaborated and empirically based approach to examining the professionalism of cultural journalism and its changes within the disciplinary framework of journalism research by drawing on the sociology of art and aesthetics. The study’s central objective was to identify characteristics of this specialized professionalism that distinguish it from other inter- mediary discourses and from mainstream journalism to outline its professionalism in its own right. Previously, cultural journalists have been characterized as “journalists with difference” and the study of the journalistic structures of mediation has suffered from a “diaphanousness effect”. The integrated perspective on the specialized form of journalism delivered by this study is thus needed to build a conceptual framework that bridges journalism studies and sociology of art.

Time period: 2011–2015
Financed by: Finnish Cultural Foundation, Åkerlund Foundation, Foundation for the Support of Journalistic Culture i Finland, University of Tampere
Persons: Maarit Jaakkola (PI), Risto Kunelius (supervisor I), Heikki Hellman (supervisor II), Kaisa Läärä (research assistant), Aino Salonen (research assistant)


Main publications

Jaakkola, M. (2015). The contested autonomy of arts and journalism: Change and continuity of the dual professionalism of cultural journalism. Acta Universitatis Tamperensis 2072. Tampere: Tampere University Press.

Jaakkola, M. (2015). Outsourcing views, developing news: Changes of art criticism in Finnish dailies, 1978–2008. Journalism Studies 16:3, 383–402.

Jaakkola, M. (2014). Witnesses of a cultural crisis: Representations of mediatic metaprocesses as professional metacriticism of arts journalism. International Journal of Cultural Studies, online first February 11, 2014.

Jaakkola, M. (2013). Diversity through dualism: The balancing principle as an organizational strategy in culture departments of newspapers. Nordicom Review 34:Special Issue December, 89–98.

Jaakkola, M. (2012). Promoting aesthetic tourism: Transgressions between generalist and the specialist subfields in cultural journalism. Journalism Practice 6:4, 482–496.

Hellman, H. & Jaakkola, M. (2012). From aesthetes to reporters: The paradigm shift in arts journalism in Finland. Journalism: Theory, practice and criticism 13:8, 1–19. 

Other publications

Jaakkola, M. (2017). Producing a drama for the common good: The theatricalization of the crisis discourse on cultural journalism. Open Journal for Sociological Studies 1:2, 51–64.

Hellman, H. & Jaakkola, M. & Salokangas, R. (2017). From culture wars to combat games: The differentiation and development of culture departments in Finland. In: Kristensen, N.N. & Riegert, K. (eds.) Cultural journalism in the Nordic countries. Gothenburg: Nordicom, 49–68.

Jaakkola, M. (2013). Taidekritiikin muutos suomalaisissa sanomalehdissä 1978–2008. Kulttuurintutkimus 30:4, 31–45. [The change of art criticism in Finnish dailies, 1978–2008.]

Jaakkola M. (2010). Uutisia taiteesta – vaikka väkisin? Katsaus kulttuurijournalismin kriisikeskusteluun. Journalismikritiikin vuosikirja 2010Media & viestintä 33:1, 127–132. [News on arts – on purpose? An overview over the crisis debate on cultural journalism.]

Hellman, H. & Jaakkola, M. (2009). Kulttuuritoimitus uutisopissa. Kulttuurijournalismin muutos Helsingin Sanomissa 1978–2008. Media & viestintä 32:4, 24–42. [Culture department goes for news: The change of cultural coverage in Helsingin Sanomat, 1978–2008.]

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