The Troubles of Journalism: A Critical Look at What's Right and Wrong with the Press

By William A. Hachten | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Bigger, Fewer, and More Like-Minded

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. --A. J. Liebling ( 1960)

Wall Street didn't give a damn if we put out a good paper in Niagara Falls. They just wanted to know if our profits would be in the 15-20 per cent range. -- Allen Neuharth

A continuing and inexorable trend throughout 20th century America has been for more and more newspapers, radio and television stations, magazines, book publishers, and other media organizations to become owned and controlled by corporate giants -- usually called conglomerates -- that have become bigger, fewer, and, in significant ways, more likeminded.

This thrust toward monopoly or concentration of ownership has developed in stages, each of which represents potential threats to diversity of ideas and views as well as to independent and vigorously competing news media. First came the newspaper groups noted in the previous chapter whereby a number of similar papers are held by one owner. The Gannett Co., currently the largest, added 11 more papers in 1995 for a total of 93 dailies and more than million circulation. Similar patterns of group ownership of radio and television stations have characterized broadcasting as well.

Next there were the increasingly common one-newspaper cities with local media oligopolies whereby the only newspaper in a city also owned local radio and television outlets. (The spread of national newspapers plus more suburban papers has allayed somewhat this concern.)

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