Forms of culture (Culture Coverage)




cultural coverage, cultural form, cultural discipline


This variable describes what kind of concept of culture underlies the cultural coverage at a certain point of time or across time. The variable dissects the concept of culture into cultural forms that are being journalistically covered. It presupposes that each article predominantly focuses on one cultural genre or discipline, such as literature, music, or film, which is the case in most articles in the cultural beat that are written according to cultural journalists’ areas of specialization. By identifying the cultural forms covered, the variable delivers an answer to the question of what kind of culture has been covered, or what kind of culture has been represented. Forms of culture are sometimes also called artistic or cultural disciplines (Jaakkola, 2015) or cultural genres (Purhonen et al., 2019), and cultural classification (Janssen et al., 2011) or cultural hierarchy (Schmutz, 2009). The level of detail varies from study to study, according to the need of knowledge, with some scholars tracing forms of subculture (Schmutz et al., 2010), while others just identify the overall development of major cultural forms (Purhonen et al., 2019; Jaakkola, 2015a).

The concepts of culture can roughly be defined as being dominated by high cultural, popular cultural, or everyday cultural forms (Kristensen, 2019). While most culture sections in newspapers are dominated by high culture, and the question is rather about which disciplines, in the operationalization it is not always easy to draw lines between high and popular forms in the postmodern cultural landscape where boundaries are being blurred. Nevertheless, the major forms of culture in the journalistic operationalization of culture are literature, classical music, theatre, and fine arts. As certain forms of culture – such as classical music and opera – are focused on classical high culture, and other forms – such as popular music and comics – represent popular forms, distribution of coverage according to cultural forms may indicate changes in the cultural concept.

Field of application/theoretical foundation

The question of the concept of culture is a standard question in content analyses on arts and cultural journalism in daily newspapers and cultural magazines, posed by a number of studies conducted in different geographical areas and often with a comparative intent (e.g., Szántó et al., 2004; Janssen, 1999; Reus & Harden, 2005; Janssen et al., 2008; Larsen, 2008; Kõnno et al., 2012; Jaakkola, 2015a, 2015b; Verboord & Janssen, 2015; Purhonen et al., 2019; Widholm et al., 2019). The essence of culture has been theorized in cultural studies, predominantly by Raymond Williams (e.g., 2011), and sociologists of art (Kroeber & Kluckhohn, 1952). In studying journalistic coverage of arts and culture, the concept of culture reveals the anatomy of coverage and whether the content is targeting a broader audience (inclusive concept of culture) or a narrow audience (exclusive or elitist concept of culture). A prevalent motivation to study the ontological dimension of cultural coverage is also to trace cultural change, which means that the concept of culture is longitudinally studied (Purhonen et al., 2019).

References/combination with other methods of data collection

Concept of culture often occurs as a variable to trace cultural change. The variable is typically coupled with other variables, mainly with representational means, i.e., the journalistic genre (Jaakkola, 2015), event type (Stegert, 1998), or author gender (Schmutz, 2009; Jaakkola, 2015b). Quantitative content analyses may also be complemented with qualitative analyses (Purhonen et al., 2019).

Sample operationalization

Cultural forms are separated according to the production structure (journalists and reviewers specializing in one cultural form typically indicate an increase of coverage for that cultural form). At a general level, the concept of culture can be divided into the following cultural forms: literature, music – which is, according to the newsroom specialization typically roughly categorized into classical and popular music – visual arts, theatre, dance, film, design, architecture and built environment, media, comics, cultural politics, cultural history, arts education, and other. Subcategories can be separated according to the interest and level of knowledge. The variable needs to be sensitive towards local features in journalism and culture.


Example study

Jaakkola (2015b)


Information about Jaakkola, 2015

Author: Maarit Jaakkola

Research question/research interest: Examination of the cultural concept across time in culture sections of daily newspapers

Object of analysis: Articles/text items on culture pages of five major daily newspapers in Finland 1978–2008 (Aamulehti, Helsingin Sanomat, Kaleva, Savon Sanomat, Turun Sanomat)

Timeframe of analysis: 1978–2008, consecutive sample of weeks 7 and 42 in five year intervals (1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008)


Info about variable

Variable name/definition: Concept of culture

Unit of analysis: Article/text item


Cultural form


1. Fiction literature

Fiction books: fictional genres such as poetry, literary novels, thrillers, detective novels, children’s literature, etc.

2. Non-fiction literature


Non-fiction books: non-fictional genres such as textbooks, memoirs, encyclopedias, etc.

3. Classical music

Music of more high-cultural character, such as symphonic music, chamber music, opera, etc.

4. Popular music

Music of more popular character, such as pop, rock, hip-hop, folk music, etc.

5. Visual arts

Fine arts: painting, drawing, graphical art, sculpture, media art, photography, etc.

6. Theatre

Scene art, including musicals (if not treated as music, i.e. in coverage of concerts and albums)

7. Dance

Scene art, including ballet (if not treated as music, .e. in coverage of concerts and albums)

8. Film

Cinema: fiction, documentary, experimental film, etc.

9. Design

Design of artefacts, jewelry, fashion, interiors, graphics, etc.

10. Architecture

Design, aesthetics, and planning of built environment

11. Media

Television, journalism, Internet, games, etc.

12. Comics

Illustrated periodicals

13. Cultural politics

Policies, politics, and administration concerning arts and culture in general

14. Cultural history

Historical issues and phenomena

15. Education

Educational issues concerning different cultural disciplines

16. Other

Miscellaneous minor categories, e.g., lifestyle issues (celebrity, gossip, everyday cultural issues), and larger categories developed from within the material can be separated into values of their own


Scale: nominal

Intercoder reliability: Cohen's kappa > 0.76 (two coders)



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

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

Janssen, S. (1999). Art journalism and cultural change: The coverage of the arts in Dutch newspapers 1965–1990. Poetics 26(5–6), 329–348.

Janssen, S., Kuipers, G., & Verboord, M. (2008). Cultural globalization and arts journalism: The international orientation of arts and culture coverage in Dutch, French, German, and U.S. newspapers, 1955 to 2005. American Sociological Review, 73(5), 719–740.

Janssen, S., Verboord, M., & Kuipers, G. (2011). Comparing cultural classification: High and popular arts in European and U.S. elite newspapers. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 63(51), 139–168.

Kõnno, A., Aljas, A., Lõhmus, M., & Kõuts, R. (2012). The centrality of culture in the 20th century Estonian press: A longitudinal study in comparison with Finland and Russia. Nordicom Review, 33(2), 103–117.

Kristensen, N. N. (2019). Arts, culture and entertainment coverage. In T. P. Vos & F. Hanusch (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of journalism studies. Wiley-Blackwell.

Kroeber, A. L., & Kluckhohn, C. (1952). Culture: A critical review of concepts and definitions. Meridian Books.

Larsen, L. O. (2008). Forskyvninger. Kulturdekningen i norske dagsaviser 1964–2005 [Displacements: Cultural coverage in Norwegian dailies 1964–2005]. In K. Knapskog & L.O. Larsen (Eds.), Kulturjournalistikk: pressen og den kulturelle offentligheten (pp. 283–329). Scandinavian Academic Press.

Purhonen, S., Heikkilä, R., Karademir Hazir, I., Lauronen, T., Rodríguez, C. F., & Gronow, J. (2019). Enter culture, exit arts? The transformation of cultural hierarchies in European newspaper culture sections, 1960–2010. Routledge.

Reus, G., & Harden, L. (2005). Politische ”Kultur”: Eine Längsschnittanalyse des Zeitungsfeuilletons von 1983 bis 2003 [Political ‘culture’: A longitudinal analysis of culture pages, 1983–2003]. Publizistik, 50(2), 153–172.

Schmutz, V. (2009). Social and symbolic boundaries in newspaper coverage of music, 1955–2005: Gender and genre in the US, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Poetics, 37(4), 298–314. 

Schmutz, V., van Venrooij, A., Janssen, S., & Verboord, M. (2010). Change and continuity in newspaper coverage of popular music since 1955: Evidence from the United States, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Popular Music and Society, 33(4), 505–515.

Stegert, G. (1998). Feuilleton für alle: Strategien im Kulturjournalismus der Presse [Feuilleton for all: Strategies in cultural journalism of the daily press]. Max Niemeyer Verlag.

Szántó, A., Levy, D. S., & Tyndall, A. (Eds.). (2004). Reporting the arts II: News coverage of arts and culture in America. National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP).

Verboord, M., & Janssen, J. (2015). Arts journalism and its packaging in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, 1955–2005. Journalism Practice, 9(6), 829–852.

Widholm, A., Riegert, K., & Roosvall, A. (2019). Abundance or crisis? Transformations in the media ecology of Swedish cultural journalism over four decades. Journalism. Advance online publication August, 6. Journalism.

Williams, R. (2011). Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. Routledge. (Original work published 1976).



How to Cite

Jaakkola, M. (2021). Forms of culture (Culture Coverage). DOCA - Database of Variables for Content Analysis, 1(2).



News/Journalism: Variables for Content Analysis