By the mid-1990s, newspapers faced uncertainty on nearly every horizon: A smaller percentage of the public was reading newspapers than at any time in the previous half-century; the Internet was competing for the populace's time and advertisers' money; the costs of doing business were becoming more unpredictable; and, for public companies, profit pressures were increasing as corporate managers sought to maintain control amidst waves of buyouts, mergers and newspaper closings. (1) The message to industry leaders was clear: Change or fall victim to the forces redefining your environment.
Continuing today under the rubric of change, newsrooms are being restructured from beats into news coverage teams, news values are being redefined and the nature of newspaper work is changing. The seriousness of prominent editors leading change can be understood by their numerous references to the need to "blow up" the newsroom and its associated routines and values. (2) However, change initiatives, especially those that have eroded the traditional "wall" separating the news and business sides of news organizations, have become a target of skepticism for journalists, including some editors, who worry that change jeopardizes core journalism values and credibility. (3) This skepticism can be understood within the framework of a large body of organizational development (OD) scholarship that indicates successful change often requires changing the culture of an organization, including its mission, core values, structural hierarchy and work routines. In this light, understanding the need for change is often not enough to convince employees and even management to accept change. (4)
This Q methodology study asked top newsroom managers leading change initiatives about their experiences in an effort to answer: How are newsroom managers integrating their increased marketing awareness with traditional journalism values? How well do newsroom managers perceive they have done in leading the change process?
To focus on newspapers with editors most experienced at managing change, the 1997 American Society of Newspaper Editors' Change Committee report was used to draw a purposive sample. (5) A census of top newsroom managers at the rank of department head, section editor, team leader or above were sent Q sort packets in June 1998.
The sample includes 182 editors from the following newspapers, which are listed in order of their circulation, ranging from smallest to largest: Columbia Missourian; DeKalb Daily Chronicle; The Missoulian; Grand Forks Herald; Fredericksburg Free Lance Star; Bakersfield Californian; Wichita Eagle; Honolulu Advertiser; The (Colorado Springs) Gazette; The (Columbia, S.C.) State; Tacoma News Tribune; Dayton Daily News; San Jose Mercury News; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Kansas City Star; The Oregonian; Minneapolis Star Tribune; and The Los Angeles Times.
McKeown and Thomas describe Q methodology as "a strategy linking qualitative and quantitative analyses." The method is not concerned with how many people believe or hold specific values; rather, it explores the types of beliefs people hold and why they believe what they do. Small samples are acceptable and actually preferred because smaller numbers enable researchers to control for sampling error more easily. (6)
Newsroom managers sorted 42 statements according to their degree of agreement or disagreement along an 11-point intensity scale. The method requires respondents to assess their attitudes toward individual statements within the context of considering all the statements. The Q sorts are factor analyzed to reveal clusters of opinions. The resulting Q factors are representative of types of people who share similar attitudes and beliefs. (7)
Sixty-four sorts were returned for a 35.2 percent response rate. There was at least one respondent from all 18 newspapers. …