Cultural journalism was important when reporting on the terrorist attacks in Paris

01 Jul 2019

Cultural journalism played an important role in the Swedish reporting of the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, according to a new study published by Nordicom at the University of Gothenburg. By focusing on the context of the events with a more interpretative approach, it contributed to highlighting aspects such as democratic values and emotional solidarity. But the border between regular news and cultural journalism could soon be erased. 

On the evening of 13 November 2015, six coordinated terrorist attacks took place in various locations across Paris, several of them in places where some sort of cultural activity was practised. The occurrence of terrorist attacks against cultural establishments such as newspapers, music or theatre performances meant that cultural journalists also started reporting on the attacks.

In a new study published in the scientific journal Nordicom Review, Kristina Riegert and Andreas Widholm, researchers at Stockholm University, have examined the difference between regular news and cultural journalism in the reporting of the terrorist attack in Paris in 2015.

Focus on emotions and democratic values

The study shows important differences in the way regular news and cultural journalism was reporting on the attacks. While news journalism was mainly descriptive, focusing on the short-term consequences and the pursuit of the perpetrators, cultural journalism put a greater focus on emotional solidarity, the context, democratic values ​​and possible consequences of terrorism.

“Culture journalism focused less on individual actors or events, instead they were placed in a broader context and analysed in relation to its long-term consequences. In addition, greater emphasis was placed on emotional aspects such as solidarity and community", says Kristina Riegert.

The way cultural journalism mixes aesthetic, political and ethical perspectives is important to how an event is perceived, according to Kristina Riegert. In the case of the terrorist attacks in Paris, cultural journalism helped highlight how terrorism can be seen as an attack on democratic values, and it built emotional solidarity among Parisians.

The border could soon be erased 

The border between news and cultural journalism could soon be erased. The study also shows that cultural journalism is increasingly adopting the descriptive style of news journalism.

“The pressure from increased digitisation and a greater focus on quickly reporting on events has also affected cultural journalism. When cultural journalism becomes more event oriented and news driven, many of its features disappear and it becomes more like news journalism”, says Andreas Widholm.

"Swedish cultural journalism has always been interested in social issues, but the increased demands for topicality make it more important than ever to look beyond traditional news to get a broader view of, for example, terrorist attacks", says Andreas Widholm.


The article, "The Difference Culture Makes: Comparing Swedish news and cultural journalism on the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris", is written by Kristina Riegert and Andreas Widholm and published in Nordicom Review

Read it here:




Press photo:


Kristina Riegert. Photo: Fredrik Mårtenson.


Andreas Widholm. Photo: Svante Emanuelli.