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Understanding Journalism's Existential Crisis with Spaghettipolitics and The Titty Mag

Journalism is facing an unprecedented existential crisis. Gone are the days when people would rush to their neighborhood newsstand, buy the latest print and flip through its arguably oversized pages while sipping a hot Espresso. Gone are the days when cafès would elegantly place the daily newspaper on their counter, for customers to enjoy alongside their creamy croissants (yes, I come from Italy). These days, newsstands are more like cigaret-stands, and bars are filled with silent souls staring at their screens, reading the latest news on Facebook.


With so much of our reality moving online, traditional newspapers have had to re-invent themselves. They hired a web-master and opened a website. Some have replaced their profits with monthly subscriptions, others with advertisements, tons of advertisements, filling every empty corner of the page. But despite these adjustments, newspapers’ profits have only but crashed. The vicious war for profit taking place on the internet has forced many newspapers to resort to click-attracting, emotion-laden headlines. And many would agree that the quality of information has greatly suffered as a result of the dynamics brought about by the internet.


But the war for profit is not the only problem. To us younger generations, who were born and raised in a globalized and hyper-connected world, traditional journalism feels a little outdated. Sure, all newspapers also have an Instagram page now, but shouldn’t journalism spark and be a conversation? Shouldn’t journalism tell stories instead of dry facts? Shouldn’t journalism experiment with all the different media and technological wonders which exist today?


This article represents a first attempt at exploring the future of journalism in the Dutch capital, alongside two Amsterdam-based women who are re-defining the way media is conceived and understood.


Cathelijne Blok from The Titty Mag


The Titty Mag is an offline and online platform which invites different artists and creatives to share their perspectives on the word ‘feminism’. The Titty Mag is a conversation, its art feeding into words, and words feeding into art, it’s a never ending stream of thought around the nature and meaning of ‘feminism’.


“I started The Titty Mag as a personal journey during my Master studies in Art and History. I wanted to investigate the ways in which female artists look at the image of women, in the brightest and broadest sense of the word. It started as a newsletter on feminism, which only my grandma would read, but has since then evolved into much more,” tells me Cathelijne, “I am a white woman. The conversation around feminism should not be owned by white women like me. So I started looking around, listening, talking to different people, and eventually, the platform evolved to have such a large variety of contributors and creatives. Me, women, everything around it and in between, who have their own human understanding of what it means to be a feminist”.


What is so unique and refreshing about this platform is that it’s rooted in arts and visuals. “Art always creates a dialogue. When you are standing in front of a painting, listening to music, or watching a performance, you feel something. Even the thought of ‘I don’t know what to think about this’ is already a reaction,” explains Cathelijne. An unfiltered, spontaneous, genuine first reaction is always evoked at the sight of art. That first reaction is a great place to start a conversation.




Every Sunday, a ‘Sunday Scroll’ is published on The Titty Mag’s Instagram page, and a complementary article can be found on the website. Each ‘Sunday Scroll’ is dedicated to an artist and creative, working around the themes of intersectional and inclusive feminism. It presents their person, work and inspiration. The platform, furthermore, hosts ‘Titty Talks’ once a month, where an artist is invited to exhibit and speak about their work, with the aim of starting a conversation – a collective reflection.




“Due to Covid, the Titty Talks are now being hosted online, but are normally an offline event. We always make sure to organize them in different spaces, from museums to corporate companies, from restaurants to your neighborhood café. We do this to ensure that the event, the conversation, feels accessible to everyone. What I love about Titty Talks is that the atmosphere is always so positive and inspiring.”


“I think everybody wants to have a world that is more equal,” says Cathelijne, “and an important step in that direction is making the world a place where everybody feels included in the conversation, and safe to talk”. In Cathelijne’s mind, it is ridiculous to think that feminism is only for women, because change can only be brought about if we join forces: “men should also add to the conversation, to that battle, to the breaking down of the constructs we live in, to the breaking down of a system dominated mostly by white men. Some men feel personally attacked by the feminist movement, and perhaps it would be good for them to do something with that feeling, to ask themselves ‘how can I make sure to add something constructive to the conversation, while also leaving others the necessary space to do so.’“ Cathelijne also stressed that white, privileged women – like herself and myself – have a responsibility to support underrepresented women and invite them into the conversation: “we need to make sure that we support each other, that we are proud of each other, that we lift each other up”.


Art by J. Prince. Credits: The Titty Mag


The Titty Mag is a radically new way of going about media and journalism. Words are no longer the starting point, they are the outcome. The Titty Mag puts art and visuals at its core, with the aim of informing, but more importantly of evoking dialogue, reflection and exchange. In a world that is becoming ever more complex and polarized, in an European reality which ought to deconstruct itself and its history and dominance structures, perhaps journalism should be more than the reporting of facts. Perhaps it has a duty to bring people together in conversation. Perhaps it has a duty to create safe and accessible spaces in which we can all come together and engage in a collective reflection.


Michela Grasso from Spaghettipoltics


Two years ago, as somewhat of an inside joke, Michela Grasso opened an Instagram page called Spaghettipolitics: “It was a time where I wanted to talk to my friends about Italy, my home country, but I struggled to do so because only a handful of newspapers would be reporting about Italy in the English language. So, I decided to take the task on myself, in an ironic vest.” At some point, however, the page began gaining quite some momentum, especially among the Italian Youth. Today, it has thousands of followers, and a corresponding news web page.


An Instagram account meant to inform the world about Italian society and politics ended up attracting a primarily Italian audience: how is this possible? “Italian media is undoubtedly missing internationality, the desire to tell stories from the wider world. Perhaps they don’t feel the need to do much international reporting because their audience is not asking for it, and their audience tends to be primarily composed by the boomer generation, individuals in their 50s,” explains Michela, “I think Italian media is doing a really bad job at listening to younger generations, their needs and requirements, which is why these Instagram information pages are becoming very popular. They supply a service which traditional media is failing to supply”.




Michela also points out how, compared to Amsterdam and the Netherlands, “Italy is failing to reconcile with the people who live on its territory, with the migrant and minority populations. The result is that there is incentive to give them a voice and a platform, making them severely underrepresented in the national media.”


In my opinion, Italian media is refusing to acknowledge journalism’s ongoing identity crisis. They are desperately hanging on to old formats and practices, belonging to a reality which no longer exists. And the results are worrying. In a miserable attempt to attract as many clicks as possible and thus retain some profit, newspapers in my home country are resorting to ever-more sensationalist, emotion-laden headlines. Headlines which are too often at the brink of misinformation, and almost always informationless. Good journalism is the pumping heart of a democracy: low-quality news means widespread ignorance and a dangerous perpetration of false beliefs. Good journalism is pivotal for debate, social and political engagement, the healthy exchange of ideas and opinions, and the empowerment of civil society.


“Smaller, student-led, young, creative mediatic platforms are of incredible value in the journalistic landscape. They bring to the table perspectives which are very different from those found on traditional, mainstream media, and often help give a voice to those whose concerns are underrepresented. I think always, throughout the whole of history, students have wanted to publicly voice their opinions and concerns, and finally there is now a medium - the internet - through which this is possible”.


Journalism is facing an unprecedented existential crisis, and the city of Amsterdam is proving to be a space open to experimentation, a playground of new formats and ways of doing media.


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