No, they are not. (Read until the end to find out why.)
When you chose a magazine from a shelf, it is not solely because you want to relax and read it. Subconsciously, you pick a mag based on your inclinations and form further perceptions and ideologies of the said topic.
Media is not just a medium of communication, but now a social influencer and controller of Ideologies in the culture. Cultural hegemony lies in print media as a soft form of domination of mind, as put forward by Gramsci, who says
“cultural hegemony concept is about the ruling social group controls the mindsets of others through culture”
Media affects our brain more than we notice, and unknowingly becomes a dominant social group that has an impact on our ideas, beliefs and consumer habits.
Ideology is omnipresent. Whether it’s picking your house curtains, or watching Sherlock back to back in an allnighter. In the media too, as explained by Chomsky is wholly about “manufacturing consent” aka making people believe that their choices are based on common sense.
The catch here is that common sense in media culture itself is divided by barrier of language and thus, itself becomes an ideology. Stuart Hall’s approach can be said to provide a different contrast, as
“the meaning that the media put in the text ≠ the meaning that the audience make of the text”
Can we create an ideology-free magazine? (Isn’t that an ideology?)
Expensive magazines, in general, do not promote a single idea but a whole lifestyle that people aspire to afford or live in, which creates consumers and sells in the market as an idea of someone else, that the audience wants to be sold. Thus publishers provide the advertisers with a similar target audience to manipulate or feed information to.
The holy trinity of magazines – advertisers, consumers and publishers move in a hamster wheel day after day for the continuation of the million dollar media industry.
Ideas conveyed by the media in print provide a greater understanding of the concepts provided by aforementioned scholars, a women’s magazine, for example, will promote womanhood and feminism or interests including beauty, fashion etc that aim for a set audience (obviously women) through their written and visual content. Thus the encoding/decoding theory ( Hall’s approach) prevails when consumers buy the women’s magazine and form certain ideas and beliefs (positive or negative) that may just validate their existing ones. (Gramsci’s theory)
Trying to create an ideology-free magazine that provides a balance in social groups is itself a powerful idea, which would require you to chose dominant and other groups in society to include them (which you will create in the process) thus, that train has left the station.
Cultural Studies, Ideology and Hegemony in our magazine?
Our magazine is called “Londonhood”. The ideology of it is based on showcasing the raw and unpolished version of London neighbourhoods through the eyes of its residents, immigrants, and people who devoted their lives to the city.
The magazine depicts all genders and races by including real people from the streets of the areas. The layout and articles revolve around the true stories from places that are not well-known, which can create a divide in the readership, as the high class might not want to read about local Londoners as opposed to their GQ or VOGUE editions.
Looking at the headlines and images our content promotes nothing airbrushed which can attract a huge audience that would relate to real-life stories, on a critical view we may lose readers who are used to their daily dose of celebrities and all things posh in London.
A fresh take on this diverse city, will not cause any changes in thinking but provide a source of information that was never an option to chose from before. Wait, isn’t that an ideology itself?
PS- If you made it until the end, you do hold an idea (agreeable/disagreeable) about this topic, thus proving my and Stuart Hall’s point that ideology is everywhere.