Academic journal article Newspaper Research Journal

Local, Network TV News Shows Significant Gains

Academic journal article Newspaper Research Journal

Local, Network TV News Shows Significant Gains

Article excerpt

Sept. 11, 2001, touched every aspect of American society. It destroyed lives and devastated families. It ravaged property, wiped out businesses and crippled the American economy. Sept. 11 changed the President's agenda, reordered the priorities of Congress, started a war and established new laws and regulations that tightened airport security and immigration. As a result of the terrorist attacks, Americans' sense of security at home has been forever changed.

Sept. 11 also affected the media. On network television, commercials and entertainment programs were dropped for wall-to-wall news coverage while newspapers published extra editions and devoted entire special sections to coverage of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the anthrax scare and the War on Terrorism. (1) Because of the enormity of the devastation, an important question is: Did the terrorist attacks change news media use and if so, why? This study will use a trend analysis to examine the impact of Sept. 11 on news media use and a cross-sectional study to analyze use of news media and gratifications sought after the terrorist attacks. Furthermore, this study will pay special attention to newspaper nonreaders to determine if their news media behavior was affected by the terrorist attacks.

Although the increase in network TV news use and the record-setting Internet traffic have been well documented, (2) less attention has been paid to the impact of the terrorist attacks on all news media use over time and the gratifications sought from that news use. This study will look at the impact of Sept. 11 on a broader range of news media use, including newspapers, cable TV news, local TV news, network TV news and news on the Internet. While emphasis has been placed on news users, virtually no attention has been given to the impact of Sept. 11 on traditional non-news users. This study will also examine news use and gratifications of newspaper nonreaders and answer the question: In the aftermath of Sept. 11, did nonreaders turn to the news and if so, why?

Theoretical Framework and Literature Review

This study employs the uses and gratifications approach as a framework for answering the following research questions about news users and adults who traditionally ignore the news:


1) What was the impact of Sept. 11 on old and new news media use and the gratifications sought?


2) In the aftermath of Sept. 11, did newspaper nonreaders turn to the news and if so, why?

Uses and Gratifications Approach

It is a bit ironic that one of the first studies of media effects from the perspective of the people "affected" concerned the lack of access to usual information. When eight newspapers in New York City went on strike in 1945, Bernard Berelson and Columbia University's Bureau of Applied Social Research interviewed newspaper readers to find out what they were missing. (3) Some of the uses and gratifications mentioned by those people included: information and interpretation of public affairs, a tool for daily living, respite/escape, social prestige and social contact.

Even with the modest sample size (60 in-depth interviews), Berelson's study of why people missed their daily newspaper became important because of the role of the reader. Instead of asking what the media do to people, the question was turned around to find out what people do with the media.

As the idea of powerful media and a passive, accepting audience lost favor, uses and gratifications emerged as a popular approach to media effects research. Once it became clear the individual media consumer played a significant role in the power of the media message, researchers focused on how the audience chose media sources and what benefits it received from those choices. (4)

The reasons why people picked specific content and media became the basis for typologies of use. …

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