Journalism Guardians in a Time of Great Change: Newspaper Editors' Perceived Influence in Integrated News Organizations

Article excerpt

A national survey of top newspaper editors explored industry uncertainty and organizational change and how organizational integration, team-based newsrooms, newspaper size, and profit emphasis impact editors' perceived organizational influence. Findings indicate that newspaper size and extent of integration predict perceived organizational influence, while profit emphasis is a negative predictor. Editors generally welcome working with non-news departments, and see their influence in their advocacy of journalism values throughout the organization. Editors do not see benefits resulting from newsroom reporting teams.

The traditional mass media model-characterized by relatively few media creating and controlling content disseminated to large, mass audiences-has been replaced in the past decade by a new model that features many media disseminating content to smaller, niche audiences who are active, purposive, and more in control of their media choices.1 This evolution has had a profound impact on traditional mass media, which have been forced to change the way they do business and strategically reposition themselves in the rapidly changing media marketplace.2

For the newspaper industry, the mandate for change has been apparent for more than a decade.3 Concerned by a dwindling base of readers and the impact of the Internet and emergent technologies, the industry has repositioned itself by developing new information and service products in electronic markets and focusing on the interests of potential readers in its print products.4 These changes have shifted priorities and resources at the organizational level, as newspapers become more reader-oriented, market-driven, and technologically savvy. Ongoing change efforts since the mid-1990s have seen newspaper organizations become more integrated, as news and business managers and staff collaborate on inter-departmental teams charged with the strategic development of information products.5 Newsrooms are also being restructured, and team-based newsrooms, with flatter organizational hierarchies and different roles for newsroom managers, have replaced or supplemented the beat system, especially at larger newspapers.6 As newspapers become more market-driven, traditional definitions of news values have been called into question.7 However, despite the uncertainty associated with markets, technology, readership, and news values, profit expectations remain high.8

These changes create a different environment for editors as managers, who are required to accept new organizational roles and expectations. Journalism skills and judgment must be supplemented with a greater marketing consciousness and collaboration with non-news departments.9 The union of journalism and marketing has not been a harmonious marriage for many editors (and journalists), who see a stronger marketing orientation as a loss of editorial control and an affront to journalistic "professionalism."10 The "duality" of purpose for news organizations, as journalistic and commercial enterprises, has been shown in numerous studies to create a tension borne from conflicting values."

This duality adds to the complexity of managing change.12 Organizational integration has important implications for organizational decision making, including access to resources and how they are used, and for how influential journalism values are to be as newspapers try to respond to industry uncertainty.13 To date, there have been no attempts to measure how integration is occurring in newspaper organizations. Top editors (journalists in the highest positions in their organizations' hierarchies) are positioned in news organizations as the primary source of journalism expertise. To the extent that editors perceive they have organizational influence, they should be effective advocates for journalism throughout the organization.14

This study, a national survey of top editors, measures editors' attitudes toward concepts drawn from theories of organizational development and organizational support that are important to explaining the ongoing changes in the newspaper industry. …