Finding & Using Subjective Information:Newspapers A presentation for L SC 311, New Mexico State University Fall Semester 2002 Created by Kate Manuel (firstname.lastname@example.org). You are welcome to link to this site, or to print out a copy for personal use. Please do not make an electronic copy and load it locally – with or without modifications.
Newspapers as information sources • Advantages • Opinion/Editorial pages are excellent sources of subjective information • News stories themselves are indicators of the “latest” information - topics tend to appear here before they are discussed elsewhere • Old newspapers provide primary information
Newspapers as information sources • Disadvantages • Do not have the same standing as scholarly journal articles, or even books, in academic research • Not written by the “experts” on a topic • Lack experimental/methodological details • Treatment of topic tends to be brief
Newspapers as information sources • Newspapers are one of the most commonly used information sources • 61.7% of all U.S. adults read a daily newspaper on an average weekday • 69% of all U.S. adults read a Sunday newspaper • Newspapers reach an estimated 45 million readers a week in the U.S.
What you need to know about newspapers as information sources • Who produces the information contained in them? • What editorial/review process is involved? • What are the economics of their production? • What time frames are involved in their production? • What shapes access to newspapers’ content?
Production of information in newspapers • Reporters • Often have degrees in journalism or English • Undergraduate degrees • Graduate degrees • Are typically NOT the ones doing the empirical research they report • E.g., X percent of households in El Paso have an annual income of Y • Reporters often NOT responsible for the headline accompanying the story • Implications for searching
Sourcing • Who is quoted or cited in a particular stories? • 1996 study by Michael Dolny found that • conservative think-tanks were cited 7,792 times; • centrist think-tanks, 6,361 times; • progressive think-tanks, 1,152 times
Sourcing • 1972 study of the New York Times and the Washington Post over a 20-year period found that governmental sources accounted for 75% of all sources • 1987 study by Brown, Bybee, Weardon & Struaghan found that 52% of all sources in front-page news stories were governmental & only 4% “ordinary citizens” • Also, only 10% of sources women
Ownership of newspapers • Majority of newspapers in U.S. owned by corporations or groups • 14 companies currently own 85% of the daily newspaper business in America • Gannett Co. - 82 newspapers - circulation of 6 million • Thomson - 125 newspapers - circulation of 4 million
Ownership of newspapers • 13% of all U.S. newspapers are foreign controlled • At the beginning of 1994, only 33 cities were served by two or more newspapers operating under separate ownership • 1970 Newspaper Preservation Act - designed to promote diversity of expression in those communities where the market could no longer support two competing newspapers
Newspaper content • Advertising accounts for 60% of content in the average daily newspaper • Major question is how strongly does advertising content influence news & editorial content • Advertising is invaluable when old newspapers are accessed as primary sources, but is excluded from online databases & archiving
News content • What counts as news? • Huge issue - there are groups such as Project Censored that exist to track the stories excluded from the “mainstream” press
Economics of newspapers • In 1993, total newspaper advertising revenue was $31.9 billion • Total revenue was a little over $40 billion through advertising and circulation sales • 60% of all expenditures by newspapers are for personnel • Increasing the incentive to rely on wire service content
“Disappearance” of newspapers • In 1920, there were 2,722 urban communities and 2,400 daily papers in the U.S. • By 1992, the number of cities had increased, but the number of newspapers had decreased to 1,700 • In 1900, there was 1 newspaper for every 36,000 people - now there is 1 for every 170,000 people
“Disappearance” of newspapers • In 1900, over 65% of all U.S. cities had competing newspapers - now less than 1% do • Significance of “competing” newspapers in providing alternate viewpoints ...
Production of newspapers • Information in newspapers is produced on timeframes MUCH shorter than those of other media (books, journals, reference sources, etc.) • Fact checking is supposed to occur - but is very hard to do on short timeframes • E.g., Mike Barnicle & Patricia Smith of the Boston Globe
Conventions in layout • Stories on top half of the page are more “important” • When a story is continued from one page to another it is said to “jump” - and only 30% of readers follow a story past its jump line • Layout conventions also disappear when news articles moved online
What to do with corrections? • Corrections (or errata) are a major component of newspapers • Simple mistakes • Libelous content • Question of what to do with these online is (as yet) unresolved • Amend (correct) the original article? • Include original and correction as separate entities? • Keep original and correction separate but connect them somehow?
Accessing newspapers content • Daily access to local newspapers • Access to content of newspapers from other places, earlier times • There are databases that limit their scope to newspaper articles • Lexis-Nexis
Newspaper databases • Problem is coverage • “Small market” newspapers tend not to be indexed in these databases • Las Cruces (NM) Sun News is indexed in no national databases, nor is the Pomeroy (OH) Sentinel or other “small town” newspapers
Newspaper databases • Content can be “pulled” from the database at any time • Los Angeles Times from 1985-2002 was recently removed from Lexis-Nexis • Chicago Tribune has already been pulled from Lexis-Nexis • Trend for newspapers to offer their own “archives” of back stories on their Web sites • Implications for researchers?
Newspaper databases • Tasini vs The New York Times  adds another complication • U.S. Supreme Court rules that freelance writers (writers working under contract on particular articles) did not give the newspaper the right to make available their article electronically when they gave them rights to print versions • Lots of content has had to be pulled to comply with Tasini