Known as the chroniclers of daily life, newspapers assemble large amounts of information in the form of words, pictures, and graphics printed on lightweight, inexpensive paper stock for the purpose of informing and entertaining the public. Newspapers are portable, inexpensive, and printed either daily or weekly in tabloid or broadsheet format. Estimates indicate that there are approximately 60,000 newspapers in the world and about one in eight are dailies. The daily operation of a newspaper varies with the size of the paper, but most papers consist of five departments: advertising, editorial, production, circulation, and business. Newspaper revenue comes from sales and advertising. According to the International Journal of Newspaper Technology (Chisholm 2004), over 80 percent of revenue in the United States comes from advertising, while in the United Kingdom the figure is over 60 percent, and in Germany over 55 percent. Because revenue is linked to circulation, the commercial potential of newspapers is constrained by the size and economic prosperity of their markets. Newspapers account for the biggest segments of the publishing world, with 40 percent of the industry’s revenue.
History And Content
Newspapers have existed in one form or another since 100 BCE, and their content is linked to their historical development. Newspapers became more complex over time. The Roman government issued the Acta Diurna around 59 BCE to inform the populace of state affairs. By the late fifteenth century, newssheets were being circulated in German cities. In 1556 the Venetian government published Notizie scritte, for which readers had to pay a fee. Modern newspapers appeared in the first half of the seventeenth century, with Relation in Germany in 1605, Nieuwe Tijdingen in Belgium in 1616, Gazette in France in 1631, and the London Gazette founded in 1665 in England. The first Japanese daily newspaper, Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun, started in 1870. In colonial America, early newspapers consisted of local gossip interspersed with economic and political information copied from newspapers in London.
After the conflict with England in 1765, newspapers became mouthpieces of political parties and factions. With the creation of the United States, partisan newspapers were founded. In the 1820s, the penny press was developed and newspapers included less partisan news, more local news, and more advertising. Newspapers in the United States today have become more informational as a result of the penny press. European newspapers still tend to be more partisan than their American counterparts. Because of competition among newspapers, the idea of the “latest” news developed, along with simpler language and more illustrations, to attract readers. The competition between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst at the beginning of the twentieth century resulted in the rise of sensational news and non-news items such as comics.
Technological innovations in the mid-1800s also affected the content of the newspaper. Telegraph transmissions of news stories led to the development of the inverted pyramid style of writing, which includes the most important information in the first one or two paragraphs. In the event of a telegraphic transmission interruption, the most important information would have gotten through. The wire services allowed newspapers to share expenses and provide more breadth in coverage. Additional technological innovations in the early twentieth century led to the inclusion of photographs and visual elements in the newspaper.
The political climate influenced the content of some papers. Iskra, published by Lenin in 1900, provided a venue for revolutionary propaganda, and in 1925, Thanh Nien introduced Marxism to Vietnam. The Progressive era in the early twentieth century also had a significant impact on American journalism that led to objective journalism. In addition, newspapers focused on the reporting of facts and providing both sides of an issue, with opinions relegated to the editorial pages. The Kennedy era, the Vietnam War, the 1960s, and the Watergate scandal were associated with the adversarial role of the newspaper. The focus on conflict has become the staple of front pages of national and metropolitan dailies.
Because of television, newspapers lost their role as a primary source of news and thus the amount of hard news was reduced and more soft or feature-type news was printed. The development of other new media has also had a strong impact on the readership of newspapers and on news-gathering techniques. The loss of readership to other media has led some newspapers to explore a different news paradigm. In the mid- 1990s, a group of newspapers in North Carolina started actively engaging the community in reporting civic issues via polls and focus groups. This movement, known as civic journalism, is an attempt, according to Baran (1999), to strengthen the identity of the newspaper as an indispensable local medium and thereby attract readers. The loss of readership and the resulting economic pressures have also led to a reduction of the number of newspapers and the growth of chain ownership. In the United States, four out of every five newspapers are owned by chains. Because of the Internet, computer-based reporting is replacing traditional in-person reporting and library archive research. In addition, most newspapers now have an online presence. Despite the growth of online newspapers, the World Association of Newspapers (2007) estimates that one billion people in the world read a daily newspaper.
Research On Newspapers
Hallin and Giles (2005) provide broad theoretical categories of media systems, dividing the western world into the liberal model, the polarized pluralist model, and the democratic corporatist model. The United States tends to follow the liberal model, in which state intervention is limited and where the profession of journalism centers on the objectivity norm. In this model, newspapers tend to be politically neutral. The Mediterranean countries of Europe follow the polarized pluralist model, in which newspapers are not market-driven but are an intellectual vehicle for elite discussion. In this model, political parallelism is high and the state plays more of an interventionist role. The democratic corporatist model combines features of the first two and is seen more in northern Europe.
Newspapers were one of the first subjects of mass media research and continue to provide fertile ground to be mined by researchers. Academic research on newspapers varies according to the interest and approach of the scholars involved. The important role of newspapers in society in the areas of public affairs and politics has been examined on the local, national, and international levels. Some researchers approach the study of newspapers from a sociological perspective, such as Tuchman in Making news: A study in the construction of reality (1978) and Shoemaker and Reese in Mediating the message: Theories of influences on mass media content (1991). These scholars focused on the interplay among the external and internal factors influencing the content delivered by newspapers. These factors include the socialization of the journalist, the organization of the newsroom, external influence from politicians and public relations professionals, and the ideology of the cultural environment. Similarly, but focusing more narrowly, some researchers have examined the influence of newsroom diversity on content production. Researchers have also examined legal and ethical issues pertaining to newspapers, such as access to government records, lawsuits, defamation, and freedom of the press.
The representation of news issues and the coverage of certain groups are also a popular research area. Relying predominantly on textual and content analysis, researchers have examined how events are portrayed in the newspapers and have compared coverage among different newspapers. Comparative studies of newspaper coverage range from examining what issues are covered and how issues are covered in privately and publicly owned newspapers, in dailies and weeklies, and around the world. Representation of certain groups is also examined in an abundance of studies examining the portrayal of women and racial and ethnic minorities, with most studies indicating that minorities are underrepresented and negatively represented.
Newspapers have also been a staple of media effects research. In the 1940s, researchers focused on newspaper readership and its effects on political attitudes and political participation. Traditional agenda-setting research focused on the salience of issues in newspapers and their impact on public salience. Uses-and-gratifications research originated with the examination of newspapers, focusing on their surveillance, correlation, and escapist functions.
Applied researchers focus on readership studies and circulation research to help management determine content. These studies include reader profiles, analysis of who reads what topics, and the motives and rewards for reading a newspaper. Another management tool is typographical research, which focuses on news design elements such as headlines, white space, type, and their effect on readability and legibility. In addition, management is constantly exploring new delivery methods, specifically electronic ones.
- Baran, S. J. (1999). Introduction to mass communication: Media literacy and culture. Mountain View: Mayfield.
- Bogart, L. (2004). Reflections on content quality in newspapers. Newspaper Research Journal, 25, 40 –53.
- Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2005). Media and culture: An introduction to mass communication. New York: St. Martin’s.
- Chisholm, J. (2004). Readers: Everyone equal, but some more equal than others. International Journal of Newspaper Technology. At www.newsandtech.com/issues/2004/04 – 04/wan/04 – 04_readers.htm, accessed March 21, 2007.
- Garrison, B. (2001). Computer-assisted reporting near complete adoption. Newspaper Research Journal, 22, 65 –79.
- Hallin, D. C., & Giles, R. (2005). Presses and democracies. In G. Overholser & K. H. Jamieson (eds.), The press. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 4 –16.
- Merrill, J. C., Lee, J., & Friedlander, E. J. (1994). Modern mass media. New York: HarperCollins.
- Pavlik, J. V., & McIntosh, S. (2004). Converging media: An introduction to mass communication. Boston: Pearson Education.
- Patterson, T., & Seib, P. (2005). Informing the public. In G. Overholser & K. H. Jamieson (eds.), The press. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 189 –202.
- Picard, R. G. (2004). Commercialism and newspaper quality. Newspaper Research Journal, 25, 54 –
- Picard, R. G. (2005). Structure and nature of the American press. In G. Overholser & K. H. Jamieson (eds.), The press. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 337–350.
- Schudson, M., & Tifft, S. E. (2005). American journalism in historical perspective. In G. Overholser & K. H. Jamieson (eds.), The press. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 17– 47.
- Shoemaker, P. J., & Reese, S. D. (1991). Mediating the message: Theories of influences on mass media New York: Longman.
- Tuchman, G. (1978). Making news: A study in the construction of reality. New York: Free Press.
- Vivian, J. (1995). The media of mass communication. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
- Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2003). Mass media research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth and Thomson Learning.
- World Association of Newspapers (2007). Newspapers: A brief history. At http://222.2an-press.org/article2821.html, accessed March 17, 2007.