Structural Pluralism, Corporate Newspaper Structure, and News Source Perceptions: Another Test of the Editorial Vigor Hypothesis
Demers, David K., Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly
A recent content analysis of newspaper editorials and letters to the editor disputes the conventional wisdom that newspapers become less vigorous editorially as they acquire the characteristics of the corporate form of organization. However, many scholars remain skeptical. This study tested the editorial vigor hypothesis using an alternative methodology: a national probability survey of mainstream news sources (mayors and police chiefs). The data provide partial support for the corporate structure theory - the more structurally complex the newspaper, the more news sources perceived that paper as being critical of them and their institutions. Drawing on previous research and these findings, the author argues corporate newspapers are more critical because they are more likely to be located in pluralistic communities, which contain more social conflict and criticism of dominant groups and value systems, and because they are more insulated from local political pressures. From a broader perspective, the results may be interpreted as supporting theories which hold that the pace of social change quickens as social systems become more structurally pluralistic.
The notion that messages in mainstream news media generally support the goals of established elites and dominant value systems, often to the detriment of challenging groups, is one of the most strongly supported propositions in the literature on media effects.1 However, the question of whether such support increases or decreases with changes in the structure of social systems and news organizations themselves has yet to be resolved. Many researchers, especially neo-Marxist theorists, believe the growth of large-scale corporate media organizations is producing a less vigorous press - i.e., one that is less likely to criticize established authorities and ideas.2
Although some research suggests that newspapers are more profitable as they grow and become more structurally complex,3 several recent empirical studies have challenged criticisms that corporate newspapers are less vigorous editorially or place more emphasis on profits as an organizational goal and less on product quality.4 One implication of these findings is that corporate newspapers may have a greater, not lesser, capacity to promote social change, even if they, like all mainstream media, provide broad-based support for established authorities and dominant value systems.
Nevertheless, many scholars and professionals remain skeptical. They question whether surveys of journalists' opinions or content analyses of editorial content are themselves sufficient to test the editorial-vigor hypothesis.5 One problem is that neither method can show whether the alleged criticism is having an effect on those who make the public policy decisions. In other words, even if the content of newspapers becomes more critical of the status quo as the newspapers become more corporatized, who cares if political elites themselves do not perceive this criticism or if it has no effect on public policy?
Measuring the impact of news content on public policy decisions themselves is an extremely difficult task - one well beyond the scope of this project. However, there is another approach for testing the editorial vigor hypothesis and resolving the question above - ask news sources themselves whether they believe news and editorial page coverage is more (or less) critical of them and their policies. Although elite awareness is not a necessary condition for changes in public policy, a theory that excludes human agency may be faulted for reifying social structure or for being too reductionistic.6
More specifically, this study attempts to answer two key questions:
(1) Do mainstream news sources in communities served by newspapers that score high on measures of corporate structure perceive their newspapers as being more or less critical of them and their policies than sources in communities served by newspapers that score low?
(2) Does corporate structure mediate the effects of community structure (or structural pluralism) on news source perceptions of how critical their newspaper is of them and their policies?
As in past studies, a Weberian model is used to define a corporate newspaper - which is an organization that has (1) a clear-cut division of labor, (2) a hierarchy of authority, (3) lots of rules and regulations, (4) formalistic impersonality, (5) employment based on technical qualifications, (6) rationality, or a high degree of efficiency in decision making, and (7) a complex ownership structure (e.g., chain ownership, public corporation, public ownership).7 For heuristic purposes, the corporate newspaper may be contrasted with the entrepreneurial newspaper - an ideal type8 that is structurally simple and is owned and managed by the same individual or family. Empirically, though, corporate newspaper structure is operationalized as a continuous variable.
Although no studies could be located that have specifically examined the relationship between organizational structure and source perceptions of critical content, a number of studies have looked at the impact of organizational and community structure on editorial-page content and journalists' news values. In general, these studies support a theory which holds that newspapers located in more pluralistic communities (e.g., corporate newspapers) are more critical of the status quo.9 More specifically, three generalizations may be culled from the literature:
(1) Newspapers located in large, pluralistic communities contain more social conflict and criticism of dominant groups and value systems than newspapers in small, homogenous communities.10 A well-documented research finding is that newspapers in homogenous communities contain less conflict news and criticism of established institutions and elites.11 The amount of social conflict and criticism is low partly because the community contains a limited number of alternative or challenging groups and organizations.12 In contrast, social conflict is a much more common feature of large, pluralistic communities.13 The conflict is greater in pluralistic communities in part because they contain a greater number and variety of special interest groups competing for limited social, political, and economic resources.14 Decision making in such communities is expected to take into account diverse perspectives and views. And although stories and editorials that contain conflict or criticism are often viewed as threatening to the social order, such stories often play a significant role in contributing to system stability because they introduce alternative ideas or innovations that enable organizations and institutions to adapt to changing conditions.15
(2) Editorial-page content in newspapers that exhibit the characteristics of the corporate form of organization is more critical of mainstream sources. As noted earlier, a comprehensive review of the literature on chain ownership found that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, the weight of the evidence shows that chain newspapers are more vigorous editorially than independently owned newspapers.16 Of the eighteen studies examined, three generally support the critical model,17 seven show no relationship or have mixed findings,18 and eight suggest that chain organizations are more vigorous or create conditions conducive to greater diversity.19 Theoretically, one of the reasons chain newspapers are more critical may stem from the fact that their publishers and journalists have fewer ties to the local power structure,20 which in turn helps insulate the newspaper from local elites and parochial political pressures.21 This author also argues, and research data show, that professional managers, including editors, wield more power in corporate organizations, which helps to promote a greater emphasis on professionalism often at the expense of serving the interests and needs of local elites.22
These hypotheses also are supported by a recent national probability content analysis of daily newspapers.23 Analyzing the editorial pages of two issues for nearly 200 newspapers, this author found that the more a newspaper exhibits the characteristics of the corporate form of organization, the greater the number and proportion of editorials and letters to the editor that are critical of mainstream organizations. The correlations ranged from .20 to .52. The findings from this study may be positioned with a larger theory of social change which views corporate media as helping to promote many of the social changes that have occurred during the twentieth century.24 A study by Akhavan-Majid, Rife, and Gopinath also supports the argument that chain newspapers are more critical of the status quo. They found that Gannett newspapers were far more likely than a sample of non-Gannett newspapers to oppose positions taken by the White House and the Supreme Court on three major issues.25
(3) Journalists from corporate newspapers are more likely to emphasize an active, interpretive, investigative and critical role for the news media. Gladney reported that editors at large circulation newspapers -- which is a good proxy measure of corporate structure26 - were more likely than those at small newspapers to rate "editorial courage"and "editorial independence" as primary indicators of newspaper excellence.27 Lacy and Bernstein found that larger newspapers devote a greater percentage of their editorial and op-ed space to city issues than did smaller newspapers.28 In another study, Lacy reported that group-owned newspapers allocate more space to editorials and op-ed material than their independent counterparts.29 And Akhavan-Majid and Boudreau concluded that editors of chain-owned newspapers are more likely than their independent counterparts to emphasize an active, interpretive, investigative, and critical role for the press, and support for these values increased as the size of the chain increased.30
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, this author expects that newspapers become more critical of mainstream news sources and ideas as they acquire the characteristics of the corporate form of organization. As noted in the introduction, this model assumes that corporate newspapers, like all mainstream media, are social institutions that play an important role in maintaining a social system (whether for good or bad reasons) - mass media are highly responsive to political and economic centers of power and promote values generally consistent with capitalist ideals and elite interests.31
Nevertheless, this does not mean that mainstream news organizations are simply lapdogs of the rich and powerful.32 News stories, commentaries and letters to the editor often criticize those in power. This criticism is viewed by some scholars as producing little or no meaningful social change. From an absolute standpoint, such critics may be right. However, in relative terms, the historical transition from the entrepreneurial to the corporate form of organization33 under most conditions would be expected to continue to produce a more, not less, vigorous press, for the two reasons mentioned earlier. The first is that corporate newspapers themselves are more likely to be located in communities that contain more social conflict and criticism of dominant groups and values systems. The second reason is that corporate newspaper publishers and editorial staffs are more insulated from special interests and political pressures.34
In contrast to the conventional wisdom, the key strength of the macrosocial model presented here is that it helps to account for social change and the role that mass media often play in promoting such change. To be sure, mass media are agents of social control, and social change does not come quickly. Elites resist giving up power and resources. Cultural values are also very difficult to change.35 However, the criticism that corporate newspapers cannot publish news that changes the distribution of power in a social system does not fit well with a long-term view of history. Many structural changes have occurred within the system during the twentieth century (e.g., affirmative action standards, anti-discrimination laws, voting rights for women), and media have played an important role in promoting and, later, legitimizing such changes.36
A key assumption underlying this theory is that the increased level of criticism that allegedly emerges from these structural forces contributes to discourse that places increasing pressure on existing institutions to change. This proposition needs additional empirical verification; however, research on that proposition would be moot if corporate media are not more critical of the status quo. And that is one of goals of this study - to establish the linkage. Another assumption of the model being tested here is that source perceptions are relatively good indicators of reality. While perceptions do not always mirror reality and sources may often ignore the editorial criticism, a theory of social change that does not posit that social actors (e.g., news sources, public policy makers) have at least some ability to perceive the criticism reduces social action completely to structural forces. The model being proposed here does not posit that source perceptions are necessary for social change, only that they are a sufficient condition.
In sum, it is hypothesized that
(1) the greater the structural pluralism, the more a newspaper will exhibit the characteristics of the corporate form of organization;
(2) the greater the structural pluralism, the greater the likelihood that mainstream news sources will perceive that newspaper as being critical of them, their policies, and their institutions; and
(3) the more a newspaper exhibits the characteristics of the corporate form of organization, the greater the likelihood mainstream news sources will perceive that newspaper as being critical of them, their policies, and their institutions.
Method and Measures
The data for this study are drawn from two national probability mail surveys and 1990 census data. The key independent variable, corporate newspaper structure, is taken from a 1993 mail survey of the highest ranking manager (usually the publisher), the top editor, and a police reporter at 250 daily newspapers randomly selected from Editor & Publisher International Yearbook. The mailings to the top managers and editors were personally addressed, whereas the mailing to the reporters was simply addressed "police reporter" because no list of such names could be found. These three groups were surveyed because they represent a good cross-section of social roles within a newspaper. Of the 750 questionnaires mailed, responses were obtained from 409 journalists at 223 newspapers, for a total response rate of 55%. There were no significant differences in response rates for the three groups (top manager, 52%; top editor, 56%, and police reporter, 55%).37
In 1995, a separate questionnaire was mailed to mayors and police chiefs in the 223 cities who responded to the first mailing (total number mailed = 446). Mayors and police chiefs were selected because they (1) are frequently in the news, (2) generally represent mainstream interests and power groups, and (3) are found in nearly every city. A follow-up mailing that included a 25-cent incentive also was conducted to boost response rates. A total of 341 public officials, or 76%, responded. They represented 206 of the 223 communities served by the newspapers. Although individuals responded to the questionnaires, it is important to point out that the community - not the individual - is the unit of analysis.38
Weber's conceptual framework was used as a guide to create indicators of corporate structure.39 Respondents in the 1993 survey were asked to provide information on 14 individual measures. The first set of measures was designed to measure the division of labor, or organizational complexity. The most frequently used measure here is the number of workers or employees.40 Three measures were employed:41 number of full-time employees (mean=205); number of full-time reporters and editors (mean=40);42 and number of beats or departments (mean=5.3).43 Hierarchy of authority was operationalized as the number of promotions needed for a reporter to become top editor (mean=3.1).44 Three indicators of the presence of rules and procedures were used: whether the newspaper has "its own formal, written code of ethics" (33%); whether the newspaper has "its own employee handbook of rules and procedures" (66%); and whether the newspaper has its own "style book (in addition to AP or UPI)" (51%). Staff expertise was measured by a question which asked whether "reporters normally need a bachelor's degree to be considered for employment at your newspaper" (73%). Rationality was operationalized as the amount of importance top management places on "finding the most efficient way to solve problems" (mean=4.78 on 7-point scale).45 Five measures of ownership structure were included: whether the newspaper was owned by chain or group (67%);46 whether public ownership was possible (31%);47 whether their newspaper was a legally incorporated business (81%);48 whether the newspaper was not controlled by one family or individual (28%);49 and the number of daily newspapers in chain (mean=25).50
The 14 items were factor-analyzed using principal components, oblique rotation.51 The analysis initially produced a four-factor solution; however, this solution produced multiple factor loadings for several variables. A five-factor solution was then extracted, and this stabilized most of the loadings. The results are presented in Table 1. As expected, the division of labor items loaded heavily together, on the first factor, but the hierarchy of authority measure also loaded strongly there. Conceptually one may be able to distinguish between division of labor and hierarchy of authority, but operationally they could not be separated in this study.
For purposes here, the first factor was defined as "structural complexity." Newspapers that score higher are more complex. The ownership items loaded heavily on the second factor, with one exception - number of newspapers in chain -which also loaded moderately high on the third and fourth factors (rules and regulations and staff expertise, respectively). Because of these mixed loadings, this item was excluded from the ownership index. The third factor included two of the three rules and regulations measures: whether the newspaper has an employee handbook of rules and a formal, written code of ethics. The other measure, whether the newspaper has its own style book, loaded most highly on the fourth factor (staff expertise) and posted the lowest final communality estimate (i.e., had the lowest explained variance). As such, it also was excluded from subsequent analysis. The fifth factor consisted solely of the rationality measure.
In sum, the factor analysis produced five empirically distinct factors composed of 12 of the 14 original measures, which altogether explained 71% of the total variance in those variables. An overall corporate index variable was created after the values for the individual measures were standardized and summed (missing values reduced the total sample size for the index measure to 199). The final index closely resembled a normal curve, with a mean of "0" and a standard deviation of "1." The minimum value was -2.56 and the maximum value 2.80. Only seven cases fell outside two standard deviations.
Zero-order correlations among the five factors or dimensions are shown in Table 2. Structural complexity is correlated with every dimension except ownership structure. In fact, none of the four individual ownership indicators is even moderately correlated with the structural complexity index (data not shown). These findings are consistent with recent research, which has found little or no correlation between circulation (a proxy measure for complexity) and chain ownership in cross-sectional studies.52 But this analysis will retain the ownership index, however, because it is still correlated with the rules and procedures and the rationality dimensions.
Table 2 also shows that the dimension exhibiting the strongest intercorrelations is rules and procedures. All of the correlations between it and the other indices are greater than .20. "Rules" also has the strongest individual correlation with the overall corporate structure index (r=.68). This finding supports Mansfield's argument that rules may be at the heart of the bureaucratic structure - it is the one element in this data that links all of the other dimensions together.53 Rationality is correlated with all of the dimensions except hiring college graduates for reporting positions, which in turn is correlated with structural complexity and rules but not ownership. Overall, then, ownership structure and hiring college graduates are the two weakest indicators of corporate structure.
The dependent variable was conceptually defined as news sources' perceptions of how critical the local daily was of their policies, decisions, or city hall in general. The operational measure consisted of a 10-item index (exact wording, means, and standard deviations presented in Table 3), which had a high degree of internal reliability (Alpha = .88). The responses for each item were recorded on five-point scales, and for conceptual clarity the final index was divided by 10 to convert it back into five-point scale.
The exogenous independent variable - structural pluralism - was conceptually defined as the number of groups in a community or social system.54 Most studies measure this by counting the number of businesses, churches, schools, and people, and/or recording the level of education, income, and occupational complexity.55 The latter three measures are particularly effective at measuring structural pluralism that is a function of the division of labor. In this study, structural pluralism was an index composed of six individual measures taken from the 1990 U.S. census of counties and cities.56 Five of those indicators are county-based measures. Emphasis was placed on the county rather than the city because the market area (community) for most daily newspapers is larger than the city limits in which the newspaper is located. The 6 measures (see Table 3) are (1) city population, (2) county population, (3) percent of population with a bachelor's degree or higher, (4) per capita income, (5) percent of population employed in professional, managerial, and technical positions, and (6) number of nonfarm business establishments. Standardized alpha for the 6-item index was .82.
One major control variable was also included in the analysis: whether public officials considered themselves to be a personal friend of the publisher.57 This variable was controlled to rule out personal relationships as the possible source of the effects from organizational structure. However, it was also hypothesized that the probability of a news source being a personal friend of the publisher will diminish as the newspaper becomes more corporatized (or structurally complex) and as the community becomes more pluralistic. In short, the structural probability of developing close relationships decreases as organizational size and complexity increase.
The data provide partial support for the first hypothesis, which expected that the corporate newspaper index would correlate with the structural pluralism index. Table 2 shows that the zero-order correlation between the two indices is .28 (p < .01). However, only 2 of the 5 individual dimensions of corporate structure are significantly related to structural pluralism. The rules and procedures measure is weakly related (r = .11; p < .05). The structural complexity measure is much more strongly correlated (r = .52; p < .01). This finding is not surprising, since both structural pluralism and structural complexity are primarily measures of organizational complexity.58 But the finding that the other dimensions are statistically unrelated to structural pluralism means they cannot mediate the effects of structural pluralism on perceptions of critical content (an issue to be examined subsequently).
The data provide weak support, at best, for the second hypothesis, which expected that structural pluralism would have direct effects on perceptions of critical content. Table 4 shows that the zero-order correlation between the two indices is .15 (p < .01), very weak. The structural pluralism is not significantly related to 3 of the 10 perceived critical measures and only weakly related to the 7 others. The strongest correlation is only .16 (the "Is not fair" measure). Furthermore, regression analysis shows that the bivariate relationship between structural pluralism (r = .15; p < .01) becomes nonsignificant when controlling for structural complexity, one dimension of the corporate index (see Table 5, model #2). In other words, structural complexity alone mediates all of the effects of structural pluralism on perceived critical content.
The data support the third hypothesis, which expected that public officials in cities served by newspapers that exhibit the characteristics of the corporate form of organization would perceive their newspaper as being more critical of them and their institutions. This generalization applies to the overall corporate index as well as to the structural complexity dimension. These relationships also hold up when controlling for structural pluralism.
Table 4 shows that the zero-order correlation between perceptions and the corporate newspaper index is .30 (p < .01). Mayors and police chiefs in cities served by corporate newspapers perceive those newspapers as being more critical of them and their policies. The corporate index is significantly related to all 10 indicators of critical content. Four of the five corporate dimensions are also significantly related to the critical content index. The only exception is the rationality dimension (r = .04; p > .05). Nevertheless, only the structural complexity dimension is significantly related to every individual critical content indicator, and in most cases the correlations are stronger than those for the overall corporate index. Regression analysis also suggests that structural complexity takes up the lion's share of variance. When the critical content index is regressed onto the five corporate dimensions, only structural complexity is significantly related to the critical content index. The partial correlation coefficients were as follows: structural complexity, .29 ( p <.001); hiring college grads, .10 (n.s.); ownership structure, .10 (n.s.); rationality, .04 (n.s.); and rules, .01 (n.s.). R-square was .13. Structural complexity alone accounts for 9% of the variance.
Additional analysis was conducted to determine whether the corporate indices would still remain predictors of perceptions when controlling for structural pluralism as well as for whether the news sources are personal friends with the publisher. The results, which are shown in Table 5 and Figure 1, suggest that (1) structural pluralism does not have direct effects on perceptions, (2) structural complexity mediates all of the effects of structural pluralism on perceptions, and (3) friendship is directly related to perceptions and also mediates some of the effects of the corporate index.
To begin with, Model #1 in Table 5 shows that the corporate newspaper index remains significantly related to the perceived critical content index when controlling for structural pluralism. Structural pluralism is also significantly related to perceptions. However, Model #2 shows that the relationship between structural pluralism and perceptions dwindles to nearly zero when controlling for structural complexity (one dimension of the corporate index). Both models explain about 10% of the total variance. The amount of explained variance jumps significantly to 18% and 16%, respectively, when friendship is introduced in Models #3 and #4. Sources who are personal friends with publishers are much less likely to say the content of the local newspaper is critical of them or city hall. Structural pluralism is significantly related to perceptions when controlling for the corporate index (Model #3), but the relationship washes out again when controlling for structural pluralism (Model #4).
Path analysis in Figure 1 summarizes the analysis. The two models differ only in terms of the corporate structure variable - Model #1 contains the corporate index variable and Model #2 contains the structural complexity variable. In Path Model #1, structural pluralism has direct and indirect effects on perceptions of critical content even after controlling for the corporate index and whether the publisher is a personal friend. After summing the direct and indirect effects for all of the variables (indirect effects are determined by simply multiplying the coefficients for statistically significant paths), each of the three independent variables explains about a third of the variance in perceptions. However, in Path Model #2, the effects of structural pluralism are entirely mediated by structural complexity. The total variance explained in the two models (18% versus 16%) is not statistically significant. Model #2 would, therefore, seem to be a better fit because it is more parsimonious (the other four dimensions of the corporate index are superfluous). However, in either case, a key finding is that the greater the structural complexity of a newspaper, the more mayors and police chiefs perceive that newspaper as being critical of them and their institutions.59
Using national probability surveys of newspapers and mainstream news sources in about 200 communities, this study provided more evidence to support the proposition that some aspects of corporate structure contribute to a more vigorous press. Specifically, the more structurally complex the newspaper, the more critical the newspaper coverage was perceived to be by the mayors and police chiefs surveyed. Other aspects of corporate structure - including ownership, rules, rationality, and staff expertise - have little or no effect on perceptions. Consistent with previous research,60 these findings suggest that organizational complexity is the most important factor in predicting organizational outcomes. This study also found that, when controlling for structural complexity of the newspaper, structural pluralism (in the community) has no direct effect on perceptions - those effects are mediated by structural complexity.
As with all studies, caution should be used in interpreting these findings. The perceptions of these news sources may not mirror reality. This study also did not directly measure whether the perceived criticism has an impact on public policy making - this is one of the scope conditions of this study. And the effect of structural complexity on perceptions is very modest, accounting for about 9% of the variance (16% with friendship controlled). Other factors clearly play a role in news sources perceptions of critical content. However, as noted above, the findings in this study are consistent with a growing body of evidence which shows that corporate structure produces a more vigorous press. The key advantage of this study is that it uses an alternative method to test the editorial vigor hypothesis, which is an ideal goal of scientific research.
Future research should seek to establish an empirical linkage between content and actual public policy decisions.61 This would include, at a minimum, studies that strive to understand (1) the processes and methods that elites or mainstream groups and citizen or challenging groups use to enlist the media to serve their own interests or goals; (2) the impact that critical content has on these groups and public policy making;62 and (3) the impact, if any, that changes in policy, laws, or social structure have on these groups as well as the media (feedback effects). The goal of such research should, ideally, be focused on finding ways to make media more responsive to the needs of disadvantaged groups and those who have been denied access to status and power.
1. See, e.g., J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Role of the News Media in Human Affairs (New York: Longman,1984); W. Lance Bennett, News: The Politics of Illusion, 2d ed. (New York: Longman,1988); George A. Donohue, Phillip J. Tichenor, and Clarice N. Olien, "Media Evaluations and Group Power," in The News Media in National and International Conflict, ed. Andrew Arno and Wimal Dissanayake (Boulder: Westview Press, 1984), 203-215; Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness. Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture (New York: McGraw-Hill,1976); Mark Fishman, Manufacturing the News (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980); Herbert J. Gans, Deciding What's News (New York: Vintage, 1979); Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980); Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (NY: Pantheon, 1988); David L. Paletz, Peggy Reichert, and Barbara McIntyre, "How the Media Support Local Government Authority," Public Opinion Quarterly 35 (spring 1971): 80-92; Leon Sigal, Reporters and Officials (Lexington, MA: Heath, 1973); David L. Paletz and Robert N. Entman, Media Power Politics (NY: Macmillan, 1981); Phillip J. Tichenor, George A. Donohue, and Clarice N. Olien, Community Conflict and the Press (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1980); and Gaye Tuchman, Making News (New York: Free Press, 1978).
2. For a more thorough treatment of this criticism, see David Pearce Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper: Fact or Fiction? (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1996).
3. Corporate newspapers are more profitable because they benefit from economies of scale. For a comprehensive review of studies on this topic and other studies of organizational structure, see Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper.
4. David Pearce Demers, "Corporate Structure and Emphasis on Profits and Product Quality at U.S. Daily Newspapers," Journalism Quarterly 68 (spring/summer 1991): 15-26; David Pearce Demers, "Corporate Newspaper Structure, Profits and Organizational Goals," The Journal of Media Economics 9 (spring 1996): 1-23; David Demers, "Corporate Newspaper Structure and Profits Revisited: Was I Wrong?" (paper presented at the annual meeting of AEJMC, Chicago, 28 July to 2 August 1997); and David Pearce Demers, "Corporate Newspaper Structure, Editorial Page Vigor, and Social Change," Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 73 (winter 1996): 857-77.
5. Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, 4th ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992); James Fallows, Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy (NY: Pantheon Books, 1996); Douglas Kellner, Television and the Crisis of Democracy (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990); Andrew Kreig, Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper (Old Saybrook, CT: Peregrine Press,1987); John H. McManus, Market-Driven Journalism: Let the Citizen Beware? (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage,1994); James D. Squires, Read All About It! The Corporate Takeover of America's Newspapers (NY: Times Books, 1994); and Doug Underwood, When MBAs Rule the Newsroom: How the Marketers and Managers Are Reshaping Today's Media (NY: Columbia University Press, 1985).
6. The assumption here is that those in power are more likely to be moved to instituting social change when criticized by other mainstream institutions. A pure structuralist might argue that source awareness is not a
necessary factor for social change to occur, but a model that does not incorporate social action has a more difficult time specifying the linkage between organizational structure and social change.
7. The first six items in this list are adapted from Peter M. Blau and Marshall W. Meyer, Bureaucracy in Modern Society, 3d ed. (New York: Random House, 1987), 19-22; Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: The Free Press, 1964); and H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946). The seventh is taken from Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper.
8. Max Weber coined the term "ideal type," which is a theoretical rather than empirical concept that is useful for theorizing or discussing theories about social phenomena.
9. A comprehensive review is available in Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper.
10. Structural pluralism may be defined as the number and variety of groups and organizations in a social system. See Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien, Community Conflict and the Press, 16.
11. Warren Breed, "Mass Communication and Sociocultural Integration," Social Forces 37 (February 1958): 109-116; George A. Donohue, Clarice N. Olien, and Phillip J. Tichenor, "Reporting Conflict by Pluralism, Newspaper Type and Ownership," Journalism Quarterly 62 (autumn 1985): 489-99, 507; Morris Janowitz, The Community Press in an Urban Setting (New York: Free Press, 1952); and Arthur J. Vidich and Joseph Bensman, Small Town in Mass Society (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968).
12. Wilson has shown that as population increases, heterogeneity increases, partly because the probability that there will be enough people (i.e., critical mass) to form a group that exhibits alternative views increases. Thomas C. Wilson, "Community Population Size and Social Heterogeneity: An Empirical Test," American Journal of Sociology 91 (March 1986): 1154-69.
13. The corporate form of organization is itself a product of a pluralistic environment. See, e.g., David Pearce Demers, Structural Pluralism, Intermedia Competition and the Growth of the Corporate Newspaper in the United States, Journalism Monographs, no. 145 (Columbia, SC: AEJMC, June 1994).
14. See, e.g., Wilson, "Community Population Size and Social Heterogeneity: An Empirical Test."
15. As Donohue, Tichenor, and Olien point out: "Conflict control may include the generation of conflict situations as well as the direct dissipation of tension. This principle is widely recognized in the political realm .... Media reporting of a clash between scientific opinion on supersonic transports and governmental policies regarding such technology represents a generating of conflict. From a systems perspective, such reporting is functional for maintenance of the total system. See George A. Donohue, Phillip J. Tichenor, and Clarice N. Olien, "Mass Media Functions, Knowledge and Social Control," Journalism Quarterly 50 (winter 1973): 653-54. Also see Lewis Coser, The Functions of Social Conflict (New York: Free Press, 1956) for a discussion how conflict may contribute to social stability.
16. Demers, "Corporate Newspaper Structure, Editorial Page Vigor, and Social Control."
17. Byron St. Dizier, "Editorial Page Editors and Endorsements: Chain-- Owned vs. Independent Newspapers," Newspaper Research Journal 8 (fall
1986): 63-68; Ralph Thrift Jr., "How Chain Ownership Affects Editorial Vigor of Newspapers," Journalism Quarterly 54 (summer 1977): 327-31; Daniel B. Wackman, Donald M. Gillmor, Cecilie Gaziano, and Everette E. Dennis, "Chain Newspaper Autonomy as Reflected in Presidential Campaign Endorsements," Journalism Quarterly 52 (autumn 1975): 411-20.
18. Gerald H. Borstel, "Ownership, Competition and Comment," Journalism Quarterly 33 (spring 1956): 220-22; John C. Busterna and Kathleen A. Hansen, "Presidential Endorsement Patterns by Chain-Owned Papers,197684," Journalism Quarterly 67 (summer 1990): 286-94; Cecilie Gaziano, "Chain Newspaper Homogeneity and Presidential Endorsements,1972-1980," Journalism Quarterly 66 (winter 1989): 844-45; Loren Ghiglione, The Buying and Selling of America's Newspapers (Indianapolis, IN: R. J. Berg, 1984); Gerald L. Grotta, "Consolidation of Newspapers: What Happens to the Consumer," Journalism Quarterly 48 (summer 1971): 245-50; F. Dennis Hale, "Editorial Diversity and Concentration," in Press Concentration and Monopoly, ed. Robert G. Picard, Maxwell E. McCombs, James P. Winter, and Stephen Lacy (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1988), 161-76; Ronald H. Wagenberg and Walter C. Soderlund, "The Influence of Chain Ownership on Editorial Comment in Canada," Journalism Quarterly 52 (spring 1975): 93-98.
19. Roya Akhavan-Majid and Timothy Boudreau, "Chain Ownership, Organizational Prominence, and Editorial Role Perceptions" (paper delivered at AEJMC annual convention, Atlanta, 1994); Roya Akhavan-Majid, Anita Rife, and Sheila Gopinath, "Chain Ownership and Editorial Independence: A Case Study of Gannett Newspapers," Journalism Quarterly 68 (spring/summer 1991): 59-66; David Bruce Daugherty, "Group-Owned Newspapers vs. Independently Owned Newspapers: An Analysis of the Difference and Similarities" (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas,1983); Mark Lee Goodman, "Newspaper Ownership and the Weekly Editorial in Illinois" (M.A. thesis, South Dakota State University, 1982); "News and Editorial Independence: A Survey of Group and Independent Editors," American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 1980; Walter I. Romanow and Walter C. Soderlund, "Thomson Newspapers' Acquisition of The Globe and Mail': A Case Study of Content Change," Gazette 41 (1988): 517; Kenneth Rystrom, "The Impact of Newspaper Endorsements," Newspaper Research Journal 4 (winter 1986): 19-28; and G. Cleveland Wilhoit and Dan G. Drew, Editorial Writers on American Daily Newspapers: A 20-Year Portrait, Journalism Monographs, no. 129 (Columbia, SC: AEJMC, October 1991), 31.
20. Patrick Parsons,John Finnegan Jr., and William Benham, "Editors and Their Roles," in Press Concentration and Monopoly, ed. Robert G. Picard, Maxwell E. McCombs, James P. Winter, and Stephen Lacy (Norwood, NJ: Ablex,1988), 91-104.
21. See Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper, ch. 4, and Demers, "Corporate Newspaper Structure, Editorial Page Vigor, and Social Control."
22. David Demers, "Corporate News Structure and Control of Editorial Content: An Empirical Test of the Managerial Revolution Hypothesis" (paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Montreal, May 1997).
23. Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper, ch. 4. 24. David K. Demers, "Corporate News Structure, Social Control and Social Change," in Mass Media, Social Control and Social Change, ed. David K. Demers and K. Viswanath (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1998).
25. Roya Akhavan-Majid, Anita Rife, and Sheila Gopinath, "Chain Ownership and Editorial Independence: A Case Study of Gannett Newspapers," Journalism Quarterly 68 (spring/summer 1991): 59-66. 26. Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper, ch. 7 and ch 10. 27. George Gladney, "Newspaper Excellence: How Editors of Small and Large Papers Judge Quality," Newspaper Research Journal 11 (spring 1990): 5971.
28. Stephen Lacy and James Berstein, "Daily Newspaper's Relationship to Publication Cycle and Newspaper Size," Newspaper Research Journal 9 (spring 1988): 49-58.
29. Stephen Lacy, "Effects of Groups Ownership on Daily Newspaper Content," Journal of Media Economics 4 (spring 1991): 35-47. 30. Roya Akhavan-Majid and Timothy Boudreau, "Chain Ownership, Organizational Size, and Editorial Role Perceptions," Journalism Quarterly 72 (winter 1995): 863-73. 31. See endnote 1.
32. George A. Donohue, Phillip J. Tichenor, and Clarice N. Olien, "A Guard Dog Perspective on the Role of the Media," Journal of Communication 45 (spring 1995):115-32.
33. For a historical treatment of this transition, see Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper, ch. 2.
34. See Parsons, Finnegan, and Benham, "Editors and Their Roles," and Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper, ch. 4.
35. Talcott Parsons, taking issue with Karl Marx, argued that values play a major role is social control and are highly resistant to change. Marx argued that the economic institutions were more difficult to change - values were, for the most part, epiphenomena.
36. Some media observers also believe the media initiate social movements and social change. But rarely is this the case. The environmental movement is a case in point. Mainstream media ignored for many years the concerns raised by biologists about the effects of DDT. Rather, it was the publication of Rachael Carson's Silent Spring in the early 1960s that played a pivotal role in mobilizing people and resources for the environmental movement. Media coverage came afterward. Nevertheless, the notion that mainstream media can promote social change is supported in Fred J. Cook, The Muckrakers: Crusading Journalists Who Changed America (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1972); David Halberstam, The Children (New York: Random House, 1998); Mark Neuzil and William Kovarik, Mass Media & Environmental Conflict: America's Green Crusades (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996); Elihu Katz and Tamas Szecsko, eds., Mass Media and Social Change (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1981); and David L. Protess, Fay Lomax Cook, Jack C. Doppelt, James S. Ettema, Margaret T. Gordon, Donna R. Leff, and Peter Miller, The Journalism of Outrage: Investigative Reporting and Agenda-- Building in America (New York: Guilford Press, 1991).
37. The author of this paper thought the response rate for the police reporter group would have been the lowest because the mailings were not personally addressed. This was not the case.
38. To conduct such an analysis, the findings were aggregated when more than one respondent at a newspaper or in the community responded to the survey. For continuous measures (i.e., ordinal, interval, and ratio level measures) and dichotomous nominal measures, the final value used in the analysis represented the mean of the ratings given. (Note: For dichotomous measures, the proportion is just a special case of the mean when the values are
zero and one.) For example, if a police chief and mayor in the same city gave a value of "5" and "3," respectively, to a particular measure, the actual value used in the analysis was "4." In cases where the values for one of the respondents was missing (e.g., failure to answer a question), the values of the other respondent(s) were substituted. No nominal variables containing more than three values were included in this analysis.
39. Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, trans. A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons (New York: The Free Press, 1964 ), and H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946). 40. See, e.g., Blau and Meyer, Bureaucracy in Modern Society. 41. Circulation also is a good indicator of the division of labor and organizational complexity, but it was not used in the index here because it also measures consumer demand.
42. The first two measures were worded as follows: "How many full-time reporters and editors and how many full-time employees are employed at your newspaper? (Please estimate if exact number not known)."
43. "In which of the following beats or areas does your newspaper employ at least one full-time reporter? (Please check all that apply): business, sports, book reviews, arts, real estate, health, national, state, food, home, science, technology, metro, international, lifestyles, travel, fashion, and education."
44. "For a general assignment reporter to become the top editor of the newspaper, how many promotions typically would he or she have to receive? (For example, if a newspaper employs assistant city editors, a city editor, and an editor-in-chief, the total number of promotions needed to become the top editor is three.)"
45. Respondents were asked to rate 22 items in terms of the amount of importance top management places on them. Responses were recorded on a 7-point scale ranging from "not very important" to "extremely important."
46. "Is your newspaper owned by a chain or group, or is it independently owned?" Chain ownership was coded " 1 "; independent ownership, "0." The value for this measure (67%) was slightly lower than the estimate in Editor & Publisher International Yearbook (about 80%). The discrepancy may stem from sampling error or measurement error. With respect to the latter, the error could stem from an under-reporting of chain ownership; that is, some publishers and journalists who work for small chains that are family owned do not appear to see their newspapers as chains because that term connotes a large, impersonal organization. In terms of measurement error, this would not appear to pose a major problem, however, since many small chains come closer to matching the characteristics of the entrepreneurial than the corporate model.
47. "Is your newspaper owned privately or can the public through the purchase of stock or other means own part or all of your newspaper?" Public ownership coded "1"; all others "0."
48. "Is your newspaper a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation?" Corporation coded "1"; all others a "0." 49. "Does one individual or family own or control more than a 50 percent interest in your newspaper?" A "no" response was coded "1"; a "yes" was "0."
50. This item was coded from Editor & Publisher International Yearbook.
51. Oblique rotation was used because it was expected that corporate structure is a multidimensional concept whose dimensions are not orthogonal. In other words, it was not expected that the items for division of labor would load on the same factor as the items for rules and procedures; however, these two factors should be positively correlated to some extent. Many researchers also prefer oblique rotation to varimax, especially in exploratory analysis, because if all of the factors identified are orthogonal, the results of the oblique rotation will be very similar to a varimax rotation. A factor loading of .60 was used as a rule of thumb for determining whether a measure should be included with a particular factor, and measures that had two or more loadings greater than .30 and less than .60 were considered problematic. Some of the ownership measures are dichotomous. Although factor analysis technically requires continuous measures, like regression analysis it is a very robust technique and there is no evidence to suggest that the analysis distorted the data. For a discussion of factor analysis, see Jae-On Kim and Charles W. Mueller, Introduction to Factor Analysis (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1978) and Factor Analysis. Statistical Methods and Practical Issues (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1978).
52. David Pearce Demers, "Corporate Structure and Emphasis on Profits and Product Quality at U.S. Daily Newspapers," Journalism Quarterly 68 (spring 1991): 15-26. Historically, though, this has not always been the case. Previous research has shown that chain ownership and circulation have been moderately correlated; that is, larger papers are more likely than smaller ones to be part of a chain. See, e.g., John E. Polich, "Predicting Newspaper Staff Size from Circulation: A New Look,"Journalism Quarterly 51 (autumn 1974): 51517. However, chain ownership has become so diffused in the newspaper industry (about 80 percent are now owned by chains) that it no longer appears to be a sensitive measure of corporate complexity in cross-sectional studies. Chain ownership is still a useful measure in longitudinal studies, however, since the variance is being measured over time. See David Pearce Demers, "Corporate Newspaper Structure and Editorial-Page Vigor" (paper presented to the International Communication Association, Albuquerque, May 1995).
53. Roger Mansfield, "Bureaucracy and Centralization: An Examination of Organizational Structure," Administrative Science Quarterly 18 (winter 1973): 477-88.
54. See, e.g., Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien, Community Conflict and the Press, or Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper: Fact or Fiction? 55. See, e.g., Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien, Community Conflict and the Press, or Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper: Fact or Fiction? Overall, population usually is the single best measure because it is correlated with all these measures.
56. George E. Hall and Deirdre A. Gaquin, eds., 1997 County and City Extra: Annual Metro, City, and County Data Book (Lanham, MD: Bernan Press, 1997). The column numbers for the six measures are 4, 54, 57, 104, and 107. City population was taken from the Editor & Publisher International Yearbook.
57. The exact question was: "Would you consider the publisher a personal friend? Yes or No?" About 23% of the sources said "yes." Note that this percentage is a mean value, since the responses of the sources are averaged in communities where more than one public official responded. 58. Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper: Fact or Fiction? 59. The model was also tested for interaction effects (interaction between
structural pluralism and structural complexity), but the interaction term was not a significant predictor.
60. Demers, The Menace of the Corporate Newspaper: Fact or Fiction? 61. See, e.g., Protess et al., The Journalism of Outrage. 62. A plethora of research exists on individual effects,but communication researchers have sorely neglected group and social processes. One exception is Protess et al., The Journalism of Outrage.
David K. Demers is an assistant professor at the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University. The author thanks Alex Tan for supporting this research, and the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication and the WSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which provided partial funding for this project.…
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Publication information: Article title: Structural Pluralism, Corporate Newspaper Structure, and News Source Perceptions: Another Test of the Editorial Vigor Hypothesis. Contributors: Demers, David K. - Author. Journal title: Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. Volume: 75. Issue: 3 Publication date: Autumn 1998. Page number: 572+. © Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Winter 2007. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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