2. Food in Lifestyle: An Approach to Food Journalism
Food and gastronomy are meaningful expressions of culture and lifestyle. Food and gastronomy are significant cultural identity markers (Sims 2009
), and they reflect a diverse landscape of communities and lifestyles worldwide (Sutton 2001
). Gastronomy has acquired a social dimension and it holds a powerful capacity to express identity (Duffy and Ashley 2012
; Sanjuán Ballano 2007
) and it is increasingly regarded as a tool for communication and cultural transmission. According to Fusté-Forné and Masip, “gastronomy is a driving force capable of setting social trends and ways of life. Thus, media in general and newspapers in particular offer a pathway for the transfer of gastronomic knowledge to society, and fulfil a key role as agents of democratization and popularization of food” (Fusté-Forné and Masip 2019, p. 136
The origins of food journalism are directly connected with the “gastronome” (Jones and Taylor 2013
), a food writer who contributed to the concept of eating as a social activity (Mennell 1996
) and appeared at the beginning of the nineteenth century in parallel with restaurants (Ferguson 1998
; Naulin 2012
). While food journalism was “a primarily aesthetic or philosophical field, rather than one closely linked to professional cookery or domestic practice” (Jones and Taylor 2013, p. 98
), Bell and Valentine
) reported that food primarily appeared in the women’s page of newspapers (David 1986
). Voss explains it: “the newspaper few options for women before the 1970s were pages for women. These sections were known by the four F’s [English] family, fashion, food, and furniture” (Voss 2012, p. 67
Nowadays, food and gastronomy have emerged as a crucial topic of cultural reporting, and they have reached unprecedented media coverage (see, for example, Fusté-Forné 2017
). According to Brown, “the transformation of food journalism from five things to do with cream of mushroom soup to the subject of an entire issue of The New Yorker, longtime food writers say, has a lot to do with changing attitudes about food across the country” (Brown 2004, p. 51
). Previous studies have showcased how food journalism has dealt with new significant content such as products, food events and food tourism destinations, together with the leading role carried out by celebrity chefs (Fusté-Forné and Masip 2019
). In particular, chefs have largely enhanced the involvement of people on the discovery of culinary and gastronomic aspects of food.
Within the framework of lifestyle studies, lifestyle journalism is focused on a wide range of topics, where food takes a relevant portion. Media outlets are paying a growing attention to the development of areas that play a significant role in public life such as food and drink (Cole 2005
; Craig 2016
; Fürsich 2012
; Hanusch 2012
). These areas are heavily linked to how people spend their free time (Hanusch 2012
) which is, in turn, associated with culture and leisure consumption. In this sense, food journalism contents are conceptualized as “soft news”. According to Hanusch, “recent decades have seen an apparently rapid rise in media content that falls outside what many have traditionally regarded as ‘good’ journalism. Increasingly, it seems, newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the Internet are preoccupied with what is generally referred to as ‘soft news’” (Hanusch 2012, p. 2
). While “soft news” contributes to “extend the reach of media, who teach audiences the pleasures of staying tuned, who popularize knowledge” (Hartley 2000, p. 40
), it is less dominant in the hierarchy of news values (Harcup and O’Neill 2017
Kristensen and From
) highlight that in contemporary media “the coverage of food includes good advice, recipes, reviews and expressions of taste and lifestyle, and the subject is therefore approached not only as guidance to cultural and/or gastronomic products or experiences (e.g., restaurant reviews) but also, like fashion, as a representation of ways of life and a symbolic marker of taste and lifestyle” (p. 34). As a consequence, according to Germann Molz
), “it is clear that food is seen as symbolic of particular places and as a way of getting close to or consuming the essence of those places” (p. 88).
In order to describe the characteristics of food-based contents in New York City’s newspapers, 287 articles were analyzed. They represent all the pieces with food content found in five New York City’s newspapers (AM, El Diario, Metro, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) during the period running from the 14 November 2016 to 2 January 2017.
The total amount of food-based articles found in each newspaper (Table 1
) showcase a first result: the leading role of The New York Times
in communicating food. Almost half of the articles are published by this newspaper.
First, in focusing on the articles that have appeared on the front pages (Table 2
), both The Wall Street Journal
(27%) and The New York Times
(9%) showcased the highest results. In particular, the analysis of the free dailies and El Diario
revealed an extremely low presence of food on the front pages. Overall, only one out of ten pieces were found in the first page of the newspapers. The vast majority of the contents found on the cover pages of both The Wall Street Journal
and The New York Times
only anticipated content under specific Food sections.
Data collected also focused on the importance of food contents in relation to the articles that open section and page (those found in the top left-hand of the page). Results are observed in Table 3
. 35% of the pieces are part of the opening page and almost 60% of them are found to open section. In comparison to the feature above, this issue shows a different trend: both free dailies and El Diario
count on more than half of the articles that open section and page. Given its high amount of food-based contents, only 22% of the articles published by The New York Times
are part of section opening while 57% are found in the top left hand of a page. Finally, The Wall Street Journal
showcases lower percentages (22% section opening and 30% page opening).
Following, the study analyses the space that food contents occupy in the newspaper layout. Table 4
shows that articles with four or more columns account for almost 80% of the sample, which confirms the importance that all newspapers give to food contents.
Similar results are observed with regards to the space per page, and Table 5
displays that the weight of short articles is extremely few. In relation to the articles with a larger extension, 65% of them take at least half a page, and nearly 90% of the pieces at least a quarter of page. Again, this shows the huge importance given to food content by all the newspapers.
In focusing on the journalism genres (Table 6
), news (information and news report) is of the greatest importance throughout the sample, and it represents an aggregate of two-thirds of all food-based contents, which is because the overall evolution that food-based news has experienced in recent decades, from opinion to information articles. However, The New York Times
communicates food from an opinion perspective. As a result, food is released through food columns, critics and recipes which are only relevant in this newspaper since it defines the trends developed in food journalism.
Finally, Table 7
shows the topics developed. Although products are the category with the highest weight (24%), it is observed that three other categories represent over 10% of the sample each: restaurants (17%), dishes (16%) and food selling points (13%). Overall, these four top-ranked topics mean 70% of the articles. Themes such as alimentation and nutrition, arts or tourism have a very limited presence. The presence of these topics demonstrates the significance of “what” is offered, that is, products and dishes, and “how” it is delivered. Restaurants and other food selling points represent the places where production and consumption experiences are possible through the valorization of local and international culinary identities.