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Culture Shot No. 1: Culture

Categories: Culture Shots, Europe, France, Language, North America, United Kingdom, USA

Images left to right: “Matcha Green Tea Latte [1]” by Flickr user NuCastiel (CC BY 2.0), “tête-à-tête [2]” by Flickr user katie (CC BY-NC 2.0) “Espresso” by Flickr user cyclonebill (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Capsule reports on framing patterns in news coverage on cultural themes, in a small, easy-to-swallow dose!

Welcome to NewsFrames’ first edition of Culture Shots [3]. This is a new type of regular feature we're experimenting with, exploring patterns in news coverage on cultural topics. Culture Shots will look at how different communities, countries and languages report on culture as a bridge into—or way of looking at—similarities and difference in different communities’ ways of looking at the worlds.

It seemed fitting to make our first “shot” about the word culture—or cultural—itself. Take a look, for instance, at this graphical representation of US- and UK-centric reporting in August 2017:

Source: Media Cloud. Dominant words from a randomized sample taken from 2950 stories published in 11 US- (on the left) and UK-focused (on the right) news outlets throughout August 2017. In this search [4], words or topics held in common between the two sets of outlets populate the middle column. Annotations added; more on how we use Media Cloud can be found View larger image [5])

Last month, a major topic of discussion in both US- and US-based major news outlets (monuments, statues, southern, confederate, whites above) was the “Unite the Right” rally of white supremacist and far-right groups [6] in Charlottesville, Virginia. So it’s maybe not surprising that the term wars— as in culture war, or “the conflict between traditionalist or conservative values and progressive or liberal values”—was a popular topic in news reporting.

Here are a few themes and articles that caught our eye. Related to the topic of culture war:

The theme of immigrants, too, occupied center stage, but it's possible some people may have missed little articles like this one:

  • In Chinatown, the spirit of German immigrants [8]
    Washington Post: 3 August 2017
    Interested in a little German history? Try Washington [DC]’s Chinatown. Tucked away in the neighborhood is the German-American Heritage Museum (719 Sixth St. NW), which, like other nearby buildings, carries a bilingual sign — in English and Chinese.

In the United States, corporate culture seemed to be an important topic, with trending articles on Uber and Google in particular:

  • Uber’s search for a female CEO has been narrowed down to 3 men [9]
    Washington Post: 4 August 2017
    A company trying to recover from allegations of rampant sexism might reasonably think that hiring a female chief executive would help it restore credibility with customers and — perhaps more importantly — with potential employees in a tight marketplace for talent. But what if no women wanted the job?

But musical topics like Hip-hop also gained some attention:

  • Kennedy Center Announces First Honorees of Trump Administration [10]
    New York Times: 3 August 2017
    “LL Cool J’s selection as the first hip-hop artist to receive the award follows the announcement in 2016 of the Kennedy Center’s first artistic director for hip-hop culture, Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest.”

Across the Atlantic, the topic of culture was linked to the issue of UK foster children, because of a particular case related to religious upbringing:

The term princess also commanded some attention, as August 31 marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s fatal car crash:

  • It's time we laid ‘princess culture’ to rest [12]
    Guardian: 6 August 2017
    “The 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales is the cue for much soul-searching: maybe little girls should stop wanting to be fairytale princesses.”

(Since we’re on the topic of princess culture, we'll share this one too):

So what is distinctive about any national culture? This selection of August 2017 stories on the topics of companies and music, or immigrants, children and princesses reveal the varying assumption about and transformations in culture at the front and center.

Stories from the Global Voices archive like the ones below also offer insights that amplify or challenge notions of culture:

  • Impact of ICT on Indigenous Cultures: Rejuvenation or Colonization? [14]
    17 November 2009
    Can ICT truly preserve and protect distinct identities and culture? Does ICT by its very intervention introduce an element of westernization amidst the indigenous culture that it purports to preserve and protect?
  • China: Red Culture Fever [15]
    12 May 2011
    “A prison in Jiangxi this year launched a red education initiative which includes singing red songs, reading red books, watching red films and writing red inspirational resolutions, etc. This is too much.”
  • Mauritania: A Rich Culture of Games, Dance and Music [16]
    20 July 2012
    Mauritania is the link between the countries of North and West Africa. This has given it a special character, with its wonderful ethnic diversity reflected in its unique culture.
  • Breaking Down Cultural and Racial Stereotypes About Latin Americans, One Joke at a Time [17]
    24 September 2015
    Humor can be an interesting way to analyze the phenomenon of groups migrating to wealthier countries, where they become minority populations. Latin Americans in the United States are a perfect example of this occurrence — enter the Flama network.

But we didn't want to include just US- and UK- comparisons. So we started exploring what outlets oriented toward France reported in August 2017, and started exploring the notion of patrimoine, sometimes translated as “heritage”.


Source: Media Cloud. Dominant words from a randomized sample taken from 7038 stories published across 2 collections of France-oriented news outlets during August 2017. Annotations added. (View larger image [18])

A search provided this interesting article on the destruction of patrimoine:

  • Culture crimes are war crimes [19]
    L'Express: 22 August 2017
    “Deliberate destruction of heritage (patrimoine) finally recognized as a felony”

But we’ll have to leave that exploration for another day. In the meantime, keep well until next time!