The image that comes to mind when talking about Romanticism, Classicism, Rococo, art tendencies is artists and writers being segregated from society. Their role was to amuse those whoever could afford to pay to be amused – royal families, bourgeoises. It was with the rise of Renaissance art – and culture – started to play a political role. Artists, writers, scientists realised they could be more than entertainers, their work could influence people’s mindsets. The years and decades that followed evolved to clinch this idea and from then onwards culture is seen as an engine questioning the system – or the superstructure as Marx would describe.
The 20th century left a special mark in this timeline. (Briggs, 1960) The expansion of the entertainment and culture industry could not be ignored by economists any longer. It was clearly shaped as any other market – fierce competition, means of production and distribution, the funding from advertisers.
Even nowadays, a time when the culture and media take up so much from understanding the political economy behind the culture industry is a matter of urgency (Garnham, 2006). And do so, we need to be open-minded about the concepts of politics. Politics goes far beyond than the common sense about powerful – and untouchable – figures who rule a country and typically act out of their own interest only. Politics is, ultimately, social engagement. We, being part of a society, are political creatures. And journalists tend to (or should) be more political than, let’s say, the mass.
At this stage, it is useless to argue against the industrialisation of culture – it is already a consummated truth. We, as people of the media, take for granted sometimes how influential our work can be and how loud our ideas can sound.
Smythe (1977) said media is selling audience to advertisers. As mean as it can sound at first, this is the rule of survival. During our pitch presentation, the professionals kept emphasising that “we never cut out space for ads”. Advertising is a misunderstood concept. Not all advertising is about capitalism, a great part of them about spreading new ideas and eventually selling them because they need to be sold to be out there. We need to let go of the stigma that ads represent capitalism penetrating the sacred temple of journalism. It is worth giving a read in this article debating a bit about ‘brand journalism’.
Journalism and advertising work closely together very well. My group’s pitch, for example, is a magazine designed to promote healthy, conscious and mindful lifestyle. I see no big deal in partnering with organic products and cosmetic companies, promoting travel abroad, or tech companies developing fit-bits. The audience is interested in seeing new products and ideas as well so once they read about healthy lifestyle, they can go out to the shops and get themselves what it takes to be healthier.