Magazine article American Journalism Review

Many Words Later, Time to Pause

Magazine article American Journalism Review

Many Words Later, Time to Pause

Article excerpt

Roberts-Kunkel series on newspapers will echo into the future.

After about 250,000 words, AJR has come to the end of its 18-piece series on The State of the American Newspaper (see "Down and Out in L.A.," page 58). We believe it to be the most important study of newspapers ever published.

It still feels incomplete. One reason is that the scene continues to change very rapidly, as it has throughout the series.

With the kickoff issue, May 1998, we said the series would examine newspapers' "quality and reach, their ownerships, their internal dynamics and their service to community and country."

It was a mistake to assume, as a few people did, that the project would come to foreordained conclusions. A lot already had been said about conglomerate ownerships and business-office influences that are antithetical to good journalism. Then, as the series unfolded, the reasons for these concerns became more evident.

But we found a number of surprises, including ways in which good companies are handling the challenges. And we found new juggernauts in the ownership field that had been scarcely noticed.

Gene Roberts, now often described as the "legendary editor," directed the series from his perch on the faculty of Maryland's College of Journalism.

Critical to the series was the commitment of Rebecca W. Rimel, president of the Pew Charitable Trusts, who knew that the best way to influence journalism for the better was through good journalism. Pew has funded the Project for Excellence in Journalism, headed by media critic Tom Rosenstiel, which in turn made grants for our series. …

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