Cultural topics in the media discussed at University Forum: Mass Media in the Contemporary World

The international academic forum Mass Media in the Contemporary World — the 61st St Petersburg Readings has been held recently at St Petersburg University. It brought together researchers, teachers and practitioners from all over Russia and abroad.

Professor Anatoly Puyu, Director of the St Petersburg University Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication, gave the welcoming address. He expressed his gratitude to the Federal Academic Methodological Association (FAMA), headed by Elena Vartanova, Dean of the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University. He noted that FAMA raises the most important issues in the development of education in journalism nationwide. Professor Puyu added that St Petersburg University offers its own vision and new formats for developing the educational process, connected with project activities and the strengthening of relations with employers.

Today, the world has changed, we have changed, and our profession has changed. However, we must join hands to meet the challenges that face us. And, of course, such platforms in St Petersburg, Moscow and the regions of Russia allow us to come together and discuss everything that is related to research and education.

Professor Anatoly Puyu, Director of the St Petersburg University Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication

As part of the opening ceremony of the Forum, the traditional presentation of the Neva Prize — St Petersburg University’s award for outstanding achievements in journalistic science and education — took place. This year’s winners were the following:

  • in the Recognition category — Professor Alexander Korochensky from Belgorod State National Research University, a researcher in the field of media criticism
  • in the Theory category — Associate Professor Kseniia Dementieva from Ogarev Mordovia State University, the author of a series of articles on regional media communications
  • in the Education category — Associate Professor Elena Sonina from St Petersburg University, the author of the online course The History of Russian Journalism from the 18th-20th Centuries

The first plenary report was delivered by Liubov Petrova, Director General of the Journalist media group and the editor-in-chief of the like-named magazine. She spoke about journalism at the crossroads of eras, the history of the Journalist magazine and cultural topics in the regional media. ‘Journalism today not only informs but also organises and unites. In this case, journalists act as facilitators in solving social problems,’ stressed Ms Petrova. She added that today local publications focus attention on people, stories, the values of specific places and regions, local traditions, the culture of small ethnic groups and the themes of domestic tourism. This brings the media closer to its readers, builds the trust of the audience and attracts young journalists to the profession.

The first day of the Forum coincided with the 30th anniversary of Petrocentre, whose flagship project is the Peterburgskii Dnevnik newspaper.

General Director of Petrocentre AO and editor-in-chief of the Peterburgskii Dnevnik Kirill Smirnov presented a report on the events and special projects of this publication, which are aimed at reaching new readers.

‘Especially now, it is very important to maintain the trust of our audience — residents of St Petersburg and other regions of the country who read us on the Internet,’ said Kirill Smirnov. The newspaper is actively introducing new formats of interaction with the readers, on the one hand, to expand the readership, and on the other, to build up their confidence in it. Most of these formats are based on cultural themes. By way of illustration, he provided several examples: the Singing Bridges sound show, one of the most popular performances of which was the broadcast of music by Viktor Tsoi performed by a symphony orchestra; the creation of graffiti with portraits of Fyodor Dostoevsky (on the first day of the International Book Salon and in honour of the 200th anniversary of the writer’s birth) and Sergei Dovlatov (created in honour of D-Day under the Betancourt Bridge); and the staging of a flash mob involving opera performers on the eve of the Opera to Everyone Festival. Mr Smirnov stressed that the aim of such projects as New Year’s Mail, special glossy collectors’ editions of the Peterburgskii Dnevnik, the City in Persons Award, dedicated to manual workers who take care of the city and make it better every day, and many other projects is to preserve the traditions of the city and adopt a new cultural agenda.

Andrei Roslyi is Associate Professor at Southern Federal University and Programme Director of Innovative Humanitarian Projects, an autonomous nonprofit organisation. He presented a report on the cultural aspects in the agenda of the regional media. Mr Roslyi spoke about the findings of a study in which 55 cultural figures from the southern regions of Russia participated. The survey showed that most respondents see culture as an instrument of soft power, and they believe that its role is not sufficiently appreciated. They also feel that a general demand for cultural information has been formed in the mass media. The next step in the development of this topic will be a joint study by Southern Federal University and St Petersburg University. It is designed to develop a model of correlation between the level of social tension in the regions and the degree of development of the cultural agenda in the local media. According to its initiators, the results of this study should be applied to the information policy of the regions.

The study director on behalf of St Petersburg University will be Kamilla Nigmatullina, Doctor of Political Sciences and Head of the Department of Digital Media Communications at the University. Culture is beginning to be considered in a broader thematic scope, for example in the context of territorial development, and, in the long run, it is culture, with the potential to relieve social tension, that will come to the fore of the public dialogue — this is what Mr Roslyi suggested as the hypothesis behind the upcoming study.

The concluding presentation, devoted to the difficulties of the journalist’s work as reflected in pre-revolutionary satirical graphic works, was given by the winner of the 2022 Neva Prize, Elena Sonina.

The cartoon (of course, in a distorted, hyperbolic form) shows the editorial point of view and the figurative means available to the artist. And, most importantly, it shows the generally accepted viewpoint of the average readership.

Elena Sonina, winner of the 2022 Neva Prize

Elena Sonina presented 38 illustrations from more than 20 magazines and newspapers and two cartoon collections published between 1849 and 1917.

The international academic forum Mass Media in the Contemporary World — the 61st St Petersburg Readings consisted of 17 thematic sections and round tables. This year, the 9th International Conference ‘Strategic Communications in Business and Politics of the Early 2020s: Digital Trends, New Ethics and the Effectiveness of Classic Instruments’ was also held within the framework of the Forum.