Date of Award

Fall 2004

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Thorn, William J.

Second Advisor

Scotton, James F.

Third Advisor

Seib, Philip M.

Abstract

In 1920 there were roughly seven hundred Unites States cities supporting competing daily newspapers. Since this time the face of the American newspaper industry has changed dramatically and we have witnessed a mass concentration of newspaper ownership. By the mid 1980's after the population had doubled, only twelve cities remained that supported competing dailies (Bagdikian, 2000). This concentration has been attributed to a number of factors including but not limited to; newspaper management, content, and mass advertising (Bagdikian, 2000). Whatever the cause, it does not seem to be a trend that will be reversed in the near future. Cities today generally have one major metropolitan newspaper and little in the lines of competition. So now we are left to examine the effects of the concentration of ownership and the lack of newspaper competition. Has the steady decline in daily newspaper competition threatened the freedom of the press? How do newspaper mergers affect the community in which they occur? Are two daily newspapers in a community necessarily better than one? These questions have been asked in previous research and the studies have produced a variety of answers. Early research seems to suggest that the lack of competition has little effect on newspaper content and the communities that they serve. Later research suggests that there are negative implications resulting from the lack of newspaper competition. The varied results have been attributed to the sizes of the papers studied, the criteria that were used to measure the impact of newspaper competition, and whether studies were static and occurred at a single point in time or whether studies were longitudinal. 11 When examining the body of research available in this area there seems to be a natural progression within the research. The methods used to examine the effects of competition include content analysis both quantitative and qualitative, analysis ofthe allocation of newspaper resources, and qualitative analysis involving depth interviews with journalists. There seems to be however, very little in the lines of qualitative analysis of reader reaction to newspaper competition. Although reader reaction was examined in past research (Bigman, 1948; Schweitzer, 1975) it was not the primary focus of studies and the results of the analysis received only minimal attention in the finings. As we are trying to piece together the puzzle concerning the impact of newspaper competition it seems that we are missing an entire section oft he puzzle. What is reader reaction to these newspaper trends? Thus I believe that we are left with an incomplete picture of how the lack of newspaper competition impacts newspaper coverage, freedom of the press, and the public that it serves. If the media is a political institution (Cook, 1998) that serves democracy (Bogart, 1998), and if journalists help to preserve the American culture of accountability (Downe & Kaiser, 2002) isn't it necessary to know more concerning how the lack of direct newspaper competition impacts the quality of newspaper coverage? These are questions that need to be answered for the sake of the public that newspapers serve, for current and future journalists who desire to best serve the public, for the newspaper industry, and arguably for the sake of the democratic process.

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