Research on Finnish Society


Into the Great Wide Open? A Comparative Study of the Contents of Newspaper Culture Sections in the UK and Finland, 1970–2010

Semi Purhonen, Tina Lauronen & Riie Heikkilä
University of Tampere, University of Helsinki

Many studies suggest that during recent decades, legitimate culture in Western countries has become less hierarchical and more open. Relatively little is known, however, about when, to what degree, and with what national variation this process has happened. When analyzing these questions, a major challenge is the scarcity of suitable longitudinal and comparable data covering several decades. This problem can be solved by using media data. This study presents an analysis of the changes in the cultural coverage of two main newspapers from two Euro- pean countries – Helsingin Sanomat (Finland) and The Guardian (UK) – from 1970 to 2010. Through content analysis of samples of the newspapers (N=1,473, the unit of analysis being an article), we examine how the content of cultural pages has changed in terms of structure and cultural areas covered. We ask whether the content of culture has become more heterogeneous (corresponding to the rise of the cultural omnivore) and “entertaining” (as suggested by the dis- course on the crisis of cultural journalism) and whether Helsingin Sanomat and The Guardian are different in these respects. The focus is especially on music and how the coverage given to classical and popular music has evolved. The results are largely in line with the opening of culture, but not as straightforward as one might expect.

Keywords: Cultural legitimacy, classifications, newspapers, music, taste, omnivorousness

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