Art is about all things creative. It goes beyond what is in front of you to explore perception and interpretation.

It evokes emotion and sparks conversation. It's also really nice to look at. 

Journalism and the media, on the other hand, are about the truth and facts. The whole idea is to find and provide as many facts as possible so that there is no room for interpretation and only the truth remains. 

It doesn't feel like this Venn diagram is intersecting at all!

Art is such a big part of our world and has wormed its way into just about anything and everything. And since journalism is determined to hold a mirror up to humanity, the two worlds collided

Get your sketchbooks ready, because Alrika Möller from media update is taking us on a trip through media's artistic journey. 

Newspaper illustrations

Newspapers have stood the test of time. They have been here forever and even though they evolved, they are still very much a thing

This is probably because people want to know what is happening in the world. You can attribute it to a desire to be informed, curiosity or maybe just plain noseyness (that would be me). Whatever the cause, newspapers are the answer

But sometimes words aren't enough. People want something more to add a little interest or give more context. 

In 1806, illustration appeared in a newspaper for the first time. The publisher used carvings to transfer ink onto the page and add a picture to the article. This opened up a whole new world for newspapers and readers. 

These illustrations were far more intricate than the simple cartoons that appeared in the newspapers before. They were detailed sketches of:

  • people's faces

  • specific places, or 

  • newsworthy situations. 

It was not only an absolute marvel to everyone, but it was also art in its truest form

Published photographs

The newspaper illustrations were super cool for a while — and then it became normal. In the worlds of both art and journalism, normal is the enemy. You always strive to push the envelope and do something new

And so they did!

In July of 1848, a shocking thing happened … 

The French weekly newspaper L'Illustration managed to have a photograph in their newspaper. The photo was of a barricade in the streets of Paris during the worker's strike that happened from Thursday, 22 June to Monday, 26 June of that year. 

Photography is a form of art and back then, it was a big deal. Today, we all carry a camera with us wherever we go. That was not the case in 1848.

Once people knew it was possible, photographs started popping up in newspapers all over the world, and being a photographer for a newspaper became an actual career option

Like everything else in the world, this particular art form was eager to evolve. And so began the strive towards colour!

In 1891, the same French publication managed to publish the first-ever colour photograph in its newspaper. This was a big achievement — so big that the publication didn't manage to recreate the result until 1906

We all know how this works. Something becomes a massive technological advancement that shocks the world — and just a short while later, it's the norm. 

Comics and cartoons

the first cartoon was published in 1754 in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The cartoon was a sort of logo of a snake with the political slogan: Join, or Die

As the illustration and photography capabilities of newspapers and magazines increased, so did the number of cartoons in newspapers. Cartoons with a political message became more and more popular until they finally got their title: Editorial cartoons

Today these cartoons serve a whole other purpose and have a completely different look and feel. We have famous cartoonists like Zapiro using their pencils to give us their political opinions

This is not to mention the interesting images we get whenever there is a famous court case. In these instances, no one is safe — not the judge, jury or the lawyer. 

While the cartoons took an interesting and surprisingly political journey through the years, comics were on a journey of their own. 

In the tradition of life, there is always some sort of public fight or tug of war. In today's world, we have celebrities getting into 'Twitter feuds' on X. Back in 1896, they had a very public rivalry between the two big newspaper owners, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. 

In an attempt to better his competition, Pulitzer published the first edition of the comic strip called 'The Yellow Kid' on 18 October 1896. The comic depicts a young Irish boy who is always wearing a yellow outfit. The little boy became a fixture in the pages of the New York World

This was the first time a comic was published as part of a newspaper. Since then, we have been blessed with Snoopy, Garfield, Madam and Eve and a plethora of other great comic strips that take the edge off of the news in the newspaper. 

Magazine photography

When the whole publishing photos thing took off, magazines really leaned into it and they stuck with it. Just think about it: Regardless of whether you are a Huis Genoot Tannie or a Vogue girlie, you will know that it is basically all photos on every page

In 1842, newsagent Herbert Ingram realised the potential of illustrations and the market for magazines with images, so he created the Illustrated London News magazine. 

In 1932, the first ever magazine cover story with a photo cover was published, causing a boom for photographs in magazines during the 1940s. Now magazine covers are a massive deal

With fashion magazines gaining popularity over time and becoming more and more iconic (hello, Devil Wears Prada) they started being a big indicator of taste and trend — not just in fashion but in art as well

Magazines such as Vogue took the concept of photography to the next level. It is not just about showcasing the clothes and accessories; it is about artistic photography and telling a story or making a statement. 

Over time, they started using artistic photographers rather than catalogue photographers to increase the drama and theatricality of the spreads. They even created Photo Vogue, a site dedicated to photography and photographers.  

For magazines, art is so much more than just the photos; it is the design of the cover and the content on the websites — it is the brand!

The use of art in journalism is an ever-evolving concept that will continue to surprise us until the end of time.  

Do you have a favourite form of art in journalism? Let us know in the comment section below. 

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There are so many different aspects to journalism, that it can be tricky to know everything about every type of journalism. Check out our guide to Navigating political journalism

*Image courtesy of Canva