Structural Pluralism, Ethnic Pluralism, and Community Newspapers

Article excerpt

This study expanded the conceptual definition of community structural pluralism to include a consideration of community ethnic pluralism, and used that revised definition as a basis for analyzing the relationships among community characteristics and the orientations of local newspaper editors. Findings indicate that editors in more ethnically pluralistic communities are more likely to include ethnic minorities in their lists of influential persons and important news sources. Editors who include ethnic minorities in a list of important news sources are more likely to consider it important to cover stories about ethnic minorities.

Local mass media are responsive to the distribution of power and resources within a community. Larger, more structurally pluralistic communities generally have a more diverse power structure, a more extensive division of labor within the community, and more formal means of controlling conflict within the community. Newspapers contribute to the control of conflict in diverse communities by giving voice to competing groups, particularly when the competing groups are among the local elite.l

An enduring concern is the degree to which local mass media give voice to traditionally under-represented groups within the community. To what extent are the orientations of local newspaper editors reflective of the ethnic pluralism of the community?

This study begins by extending the conceptual definition of community structural pluralism to include a consideration of community ethnic pluralism. The study then turns to an analysis of the relationships among community structural pluralism, community ethnic pluralism, and the orientations of local newspaper editors.

Structural

Pluralism

Structural pluralism is defined as the degree of differentiation in the social system along institutional and specialized interest group lines, in a way that determines the potential sources of organized social power.2 The "differentiation in the social system" component of the definition is based on the concepts of the division of labor and heterogeneity. The "potential sources of organized social power" component of the definition draws from the concepts of political pluralism and elitism and can be linked to the concepts of social and cultural pluralism. Both "differentiation" and "power" components will be discussed below. But first it is important to point out that the definition of structural pluralism being advanced here also suggests a positive association between "differentiation in the social system" and "potential sources of organized social power." In other words, more differentiated communities would have more diverse sources of organized social power. Communities with greater degrees of differentiation would have a wider range of groups and institutions involved in community decisionmaking processes. Empirically, there has been shown to be a positive relationship between community economic differentiation and a decentralization of the local decision-making structures.3 The present study seeks to further elaborate the relationships among structural pluralism, ethnic pluralism, and the local newspaper editor's view of the ethnic diversity of the local power structure.

As was stated above, the conceptual definition of structural pluralism being advanced here borrows from the concepts of division of labor, political pluralism, and elitism. The degree of differentiation in the social system is thought to be related to the evolutionary stage of the society: organizations within more evolved societies are more complex, formalized, and specialized than those in more primitive societies. Larger, more complex societies are given order and stability through the interdependencies created by extensive division of labor.4 The division of labor, or the specialization of occupations, is just one parameter of social differentiation. Ethnic heterogeneity, income inequality, and political differentiation are additional parameters which can be observed. …