|B ASIC D ATA|
|Official Country Name:||United States of America|
|Region (Map name):||North & Central America|
|Area:||9,629,091 sq km|
|GDP:||9,837,406 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Daily Newspapers:||1,476|
|Circulation per 1,000:||264|
|Total Newspaper Ad Receipts:||48,700 (US$ millions)|
|As % of All Ad Expenditures:||33.10|
|Number of Television Stations:||1,500|
|Number of Television Sets:||219,000,000|
|Television Sets per 1,000:||787.6|
|Number of Cable Subscribers:||70,991,360|
|Cable Subscribers per 1,000:||252.1|
|Number of Satellite Subscribers:||16,000,000|
|Satellite Subscribers per 1,000:||57.5|
|Number of Radio Stations:||10,322|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||575,000,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||2,067.9|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||161,000,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||579.0|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||95,354,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||342.9|
Background & General Characteristics
The press in the United States evolved through a long history of freedom and openness, and it operated at the beginning of the twenty-first century within one of the richest and most powerful societies in the world. Press freedom was a crucial factor in the formation of the American republic, and strict protections for the press were added to the United States Constitution just two years after it was ratified. European travelers observed the appetite for newspapers among ordinary American citizens and thought it a distinctive characteristic of the early Republic. Notably, Alexis de Tocqueville devoted large sections of his Democracy in America (1857) to his amazement at the amount of information from newspapers available to a common rural farmer.
From its independence from England into the twenty-first century, the U.S. press has operated without fear of prior restraint and with little fear of lawsuits resulting from coverage of governmental issues or public officials. Toward the end of the twentieth century, however, libel suits and libel law for private persons and corporations was less favorable to newspapers. Nonetheless, the press enjoyed broad protection that allowed aggressive reporting, including laws that sometimes mandated cooperation from public officials. The federal government and many state governments have passed freedom of information laws that require public meetings to be open and public documents to be available to citizens, including reporters, simply for the asking. In addition to assisting people in discovering facts, some states have passed laws which shield journalists from being compelled to divulge notes and information about sources, even when ordered to do so by a judge.
Nature of the Audience
The U.S. public is one of the most literate in the world, with a literacy rate reaching 97 percent. The United States also enjoys an extremely high per capita income and consumes massive amounts of media in all forms—newspapers and magazines, radio and television, and film documentaries. In 2000, 62.5 million newspapers circulated in the United States on any given day.
Though the United States has no single official language, most of the population speaks English. There is a large and quickly growing Spanish-speaking minority in the United States, concentrated most visibly in the Southwest, California, and Florida but present in all large cities and in many rural and agricultural areas. Federal and state laws compel most government documents to be published in a variety of languages. There are many non-English-language newspapers in the United States, published in a host of languages, but their quality and distribution vary widely, and their number has declined substantially since their height in the early 1900s.
The population of the United States grew steadily at a rate of about one percent per year from 1990 to 2000. The United States includes people who claim nearly every ethnic origin in the world. Although most Americans can claim some European descent, people of Hispanic origin are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of people claiming Hispanic descent grew from 23 million to 32 million. Many legal and illegal Hispanic immigrants, and many citizens of Hispanic descent, speak only Spanish. The number of African Americans in the United States grew from 29 million to 33 million in that same time period.
New York City is the country's media capital and major financial center, although most of the country's movies and television programming comes from Los Angeles. The Midwest, which includes states in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins, is mainly an agricultural and industrial area. The relatively sparsely populated Great Plains states, most of which share the Missouri River basin, produce most of the country's food. About 80 percent of the country's population lived inside metropolitan areas in 1998, which comprised about 20 percent of the country's land.
Numbers of Newspapers by Circulation
Despite the growing population and affluence of the United States, many newspapers continue to suffer from declining or stagnant circulation. In 2000, daily newspaper circulation reached a low of 0.20 newspapers per capita, down from 0.30 in 1970. Fierce competition from cable channels, network television, radio, and the Internet continues to cut into newspapers' market share and circulation. Although advertising revenues continue to grow, their growth has generally been slow. The boom years of the 1990s reversed this trend to some extent, but the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States accelerated an already-existing economic slowdown and led to major declines in ad lineage and advertising revenues across the country. One positive result of the attacks, and the subsequent military response to the attacks by the United States, has been an increase in circulation, in both long-term subscriptions and daily single-copy sales. However, even this interest-driven increase was slowing as of the summer of 2002.
The general trend of the United States press over most of the twentieth century was toward consolidation, chain or corporate ownership, and newspaper monopolies in most towns and cities. In 2001, only 49 U.S. cities had competing daily newspapers. Of those 49 cities, 16 had two nominally competitive newspapers owned by the same company. Another 12 cities had competing newspapers published under joint operating agreements, an exemption to antitrust laws allowing two struggling newspapers to combine all operations outside their respective newsrooms. Only 21 U.S. cities, therefore, had true competition among daily newspapers. Of those cities, five—Tucson, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Seattle—had more than two competing daily newspapers, leaving 16 cities with only two competing newspapers. This number represents a massive decline from newspapers' height in the late nineteenth century, when nearly every rural town and county seat might have had two or three competing daily and weekly papers, and larger cities might have had up to 20 or 30 papers.
The number of newspapers in the United States has continued to shrink, even as the country has experienced substantial growth in population, affluence, and literacy. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the country's population was slowly aging, as a result of the post-World War II "baby boom," and older Americans have tended to be more frequent newspaper readers than younger persons.
The decline in the number of newspapers and in circulation is thus a dispiriting trend for publishers. In the last 30 years, the total number of newspapers has fallen from 1,748 to approximately 1,480. Those 1,480 newspapers are divided up into specific groups based on their daily circulation. As of Sept. 30, 2000, there were 9 newspapers that circulated more than 500,000 copies daily; 29 between 250,001 and 500,000; 67 between 100,001 and 250,000; 118 between 50,001 and 100,000; 201 between 25,001 and 50,000; 433 between 10,001 and 25,000; 363 between 5,001 and 10,000; and 260 below 5,000.
Tabloid newspapers have never been particularly popular in the United States, and most Americans tend to think of "tabloids" in terms of the supermarket alien-abduction genre of papers. However, some serious tabloids have gained a large following in certain cities; New York commuters in particular seem to enjoy the tabloidsized paper for its convenience in subway trains and on buses. As of September 30, 2000, there were a total of 51 tabloid-format papers being published in the United States. Five of those were daily broadsheet papers that published a tabloid edition only one day each week. The city with the most tabloids was New York, with four; Boston and Topeka, Kansas, had two each.
Morning, Evening, and Sunday Editions
The daily newspaper press is in the midst of a long-term conversion from publishing mostly in the evening to publishing mostly in the morning. In 1970, evening newspapers outnumbered dailies almost 5 to 1, with 1,429 evening newspapers and 334 morning papers being published. In 2000, for the first time, morning newspapers outnumbered evening, 766 to 727. In the same period, Sunday circulation grew from 49.2 million to 59.4 million, while daily circulation fell from 62.1 million to 55.8 million. Although the number of morning and evening newspapers is as of 2002 roughly equal, circulation has shifted dramatically. In 1970, evening circulation outnumbered morning 36.2 million to 25.9 million; in 2000, morning outnumbered evening 46.8 million to 9 million. Publication time roughly follows the size of the city in which a newspaper is published. As of 2002, no evening papers were published in any city larger than 250,000 people, while in towns of 5,000 or fewer, evening newspapers outnumbered morning 209 to 51. The logic of the long-term switch is complex but related essentially to newspapers' competition with broadcast media and newspapers' relationships with advertisers. Put simply, newspapers as a printed medium find it increasingly difficult to compete with television news channels on a daily basis, especially since the advent and recent massive proliferation of 24-hour cable news channels. While the afternoon or evening paper can at best summarize the events of the morning, a morning newspaper can summarize all the events of the previous day, barring sporting events or city council meetings that continue far into the night. Morning papers also are more influential in setting the tone of news discussions for the day; many broadcast reporters still get story ideas from the morning newspaper. The era of the printed newspaper as a viable medium for covering breaking news seems to be ending, although newspapers' Internet sites can be a way for papers to reclaim some of that market. In extreme circumstances press runs can be, and sometimes are, stopped or slowed, but most newspapers publish only one edition in any news cycle. The role of the afternoon paper, in the smaller communities which it generally serves, is similar to the role of the six o'clock newscast in larger cities—to provide a comprehensive summary of the day's events.
In the early 2000s, the one bright trend in circulation figures was the growth of the Sunday newspaper press. The Sunday paper is a relatively recent phenomenon, showing substantial growth in the 1980s and 1990s. As of 2002, a total of 917 Sunday newspapers were being published, up from only 538 in 1970. Most Sunday papers are published in midsize cities with populations between 10,000 and 100,000, though most Sunday circulation comes from big-city papers. Sunday papers tend to be the largest editions of the week, with papers like The New York Times publishing easily 300 pages on a single day. Sunday editions tend to be highly profitable for many papers, since they constitute a venue for a massive volume of display and classified advertising and many preprinted inserts. The Sunday paper has also traditionally contained expanded sections on science, health, books, performing arts, visual arts, TV listings, business, opinion, and the like. Additionally, many organizations use their Sunday editions for publishing expanded sections on the events of the week or for printing significantly longer stories analyzing events or trends in the public eye.
Sunday editions also often provide a place for newspapers to publish magazines, although relatively few newspapers actually produce their own. Many papers buy preprinted magazines, such as the popular Parade magazine, from news services. Many midsize and larger-circulation papers also publish a tabloid-style entertainment magazine on Fridays or weekends.
Given the size and variety of the U.S. press, there is no consistent number of pages that U.S. newspapers publish. Most midsize papers, of circulations between 25,000 and 75,000, publish between two and four news sections on any given day, with between 16 and 80 total pages. Added to the news sections can be one or two classified and display advertising sections, with between 4 and 20 total pages. Individual newspapers can even vary widely during the week in terms of their page count; most papers publish larger sections on Wednesdays,
Most morning newspapers are in large cities, and most of the circulation of newspapers comes from the big-city press. The top 50 daily and Sunday papers in the United States all circulate in very large cities. As one would expect, the number of daily newspapers is also largest in states with large populations and large geographic areas. California leads the nation with 92 dailies, and Texas is second with 87. Delaware and the District of Columbia have the fewest dailies, with only two each. Washington, D.C., though, leads the nation in circulation per capita at 1.51 newspapers circulated per person. Of course, many of those papers are bought outside the federal district's area.
Ten Largest Newspapers
The ten largest newspapers in the United States in terms of circulation are all daily papers and are all published in large cities or their suburbs. In order of circulation size as of September 30, 2000, they were: The Wall Street Journal (New York);
USA Today (Arlington, Virginia); The New York Times ; The Los Angeles Times ; The Washington (D.C.) Post ; the Daily News (New York); The Chicago Tribune ; Newsday (Long Island, New York); The Houston Chronicle ; and The Dallas Morning News . The top ten Sunday papers vary slightly from this list, due mainly to the fact that neither The Wall Street Journal nor USA Today publishes on Sunday. They are: The New York Times ; The Los Angeles Times ; The Washington Post The Chicago Tribune ;
The Philadelphia Inquirer ; the Daily News (New York); The Dallas Morning News ; The Detroit News & Free Press ; The Houston Chronicle ; and The Boston Globe .
Small & Special Interest Press
Weekly newspapers, of course, operate on an entirely different news cycle and tend to be concentrated almost exclusively in rural communities. Some weekly newspapers, such as New York's Village Voice , circulate within a larger metropolitan area and offer a serious, though sometimes alternative, look at urban news and issues, competing directly with established newspapers and broadcast stations. Most weekly papers, however, circulate in areas with too small a population to support a daily newspaper and offer their readers coverage of areas generally ignored by larger papers and broadcasters. Weekly and semiweekly papers still make up the bulk of the American newspaper press in terms of sheer numbers, although their circulation is only about half that of daily newspapers. In 2001, a total of 6,579 community weekly papers circulated in the United States. Most of those—4,145—were paid for by subscribers, and another 1,065 circulated for free. A total of 1,369 combined paid and free editions. In any given week, 20.6 million paid and 27.4 million free weekly papers circulated in the United States in 2000.
An entirely different and more recent phenomenon has been the growth of free "shopper" papers and zoned editions of larger papers. Shoppers are generally papers that are distributed free within a given market, with their production costs paid for entirely through advertising. Zoned editions, on the other hand, are bundled with the regular newspaper and generally comprise special sections that are designed to allow advertising and news departments to produce area-specific content. In other words, a large metropolitan newspaper such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch might (and does) publish zoned editions for a variety of geographic regions and suburbs that offer coverage of local schools, development, business and other issues that do not make the regular newspaper. In 2001, some 1,399 shopper publications and 3,598 zoned editions were published in the United States.
The ethnic and religious press has been affected by the general decline of the mainstream newspaper press. The rise of the one-newspaper town, combined with the general trend towards corporate ownership and shared corporate profits, has made it more difficult for any special-interest newspaper to successfully compete for advertising dollars and subscription revenues. Special-interest publishers have tended to concentrate in the magazine sector, where narrowly focusing on a specific target market results in an ever-increasing Balkanization of the magazine medium. Not surprisingly, surviving ethnic and foreign-language papers tend to be concentrated in the large cities, where the populations they target live. In some ways, the decline in numbers of ethnic and religious papers reflects a laudable desire on the part of mainstream publishers to include all groups in their communities; however, there has been loss of unique voices in the newspaper market.
In general, the distribution of ethnic newspapers has tracked changes in the general population. The current group attracting most attention from newspaper publishers is the Hispanic market. Many big-city newspapers, and even some small-town papers in areas with large Hispanic populations, have begun publishing Spanish-language sections and tabloids, sometimes partnering with existing publications. Other newspapers targeting Hispanics have sprung up on their own in various cities. In 2000, there were 149 Hispanic newspapers published in the United States.
African Americans have long been active newspaper publishers in the United States, often because personal preference combined with real or apparent segregation made white newspaper editors reluctant to publish serious news about African Americans. Frederick Douglass, the well-known former slave and abolitionist leader, started publishing the first successful African-American newspaper, the North Star , in 1847. In 2000, some 193 newspapers aimed partially or wholly at African Americans were published in the United States.
Religious newspapers have long had a presence in the newspaper world, especially in large cities. In 2000, there were at least 127 Christian papers, mostly Catholic, and at least 75 Jewish newspapers published in the United States. Military newspapers, whether published on land bases or on large ships, make up another significant segment of the special-interest press; at least 127 military papers were published in 2000.
Quality of Journalism
One unique aspect of U.S. newspapers is their detached stance towards news and especially politics. As newspaper numbers and newspaper competition have declined, so too has the tradition of newspapers supporting a particular political party or ideology. Although most newspapers in foreign countries are generally or explicitly supportive of particular political parties, American newspapers pride themselves on their independence from the political fray. Journalists are trained to seek objectivity in their reporting and are warned against taking stances on issues, persons, or events they cover. Most newspapers, at least in theory, observe a strict separation between the news and editorial pages and maintain a strict separation of powers between the newsroom and business office. This separation of powers is meant to express papers' editorial independence and to avoid even the appearance of influences on the paper from advertisers or political parties.
Reporters and editors find a particular ethical responsibility to be as fair and accurate as possible in reporting news. Many journalists struggle to overcome their own personal biases towards the news, whether in terms of political partisanship or in terms of their own religious or ethnic backgrounds. In particular, when covering political or religious stories, journalists have to consciously remind themselves to treat all sides of an issue fairly.
What this means for most journalists is that they are either explicitly prohibited or at least discouraged from holding public office, serving as communications or public relations directors for businesses or nonprofit agencies, and generally placing themselves in the public eye as being in support of political or social issues. The logic behind these prohibitions is that while journalists are citizens and entitled to the rights and responsibilities of any citizen in an open democracy, they should not compromise even the appearance of their media organization's independence and objectivity.
In the early 2000s, however, journalists have become somewhat more visible to the public. Many newspapers consider it acceptable to sponsor public meetings dedicated to discussing an issue of public concern or to sponsor panel discussions or a series of speakers on public issues. A growing minority of journalists argues that a newspaper's civic responsibilities should be balanced against its desire to be independent and objective. Many journalists are beginning to accept the idea that newspapers should not just report on community problems, but they should be a part of a community decision-making process to fix those problems. At the same time, however, a small but vocal minority of American journalists go so far as to espouse the view that journalists should not even vote, in an attempt to strictly separate themselves from public life. Most American journalists attempt to steer a middle line, observing a strict separation between their personal, political, and spiritual lives on the one hand and their responsibilities towards a mass audience on the other.
A particular ethical problem that many newspapers face concerns relations with advertisers. Most American papers earn a large portion of their revenues from display advertising; only a very few specialty newspapers and newsletters are able to sustain themselves mostly or entirely on subscription revenues. Pressure brought against newspapers by advertisers poses particularly tricky ethical decisions at times; the newspaper may desire to be as independent as possible, but if the newspaper is forced to close, its ability to do anything ceases. This problem is particularly acute for newspapers in rural areas and small towns, which cannot rely upon support from national advertisers.
Some media critics, however, argue that most U.S. newspapers suffer from inherent biases in coverage, such as an uncritical acceptance of capitalism, free markets, and the basic two-party system, even while claiming to be objective. Corporate consolidation and the fact that as of 2002 most daily newspapers operate as only one part of giant corporations has also led many journalists to worry about the possibility of undue influence being concentrated in relatively few hands.
Three Most Influential Newspapers
By far the most influential newspaper continues to be The New York Times , which sets a standard for quality journalism unparalleled throughout the country. Although the Times is not the largest-circulation daily in the country, the influence it has on the intellectual and political world is considerable. Over the course of its history, the Times has been the newspaper of record for many Americans.
USA Today must make the top three list if for no other reason than its influence on other papers. USA Today has the distinction of being the country's only truly national newspaper; though some of its editions are zoned by regions of the country, the paper makes an effort to cover news of national importance and includes news from every state in every edition. Founded in 1982, USA Today introduced a style of news writing that emphasized short, easy-to-read stories. The paper also pioneered massive use of color photos and infographics, and it adopted a now-famous and widely copied color weather map. The focus of USA Today has never been New York Times -style investigative journalism or long series on local or national issues. The paper was, however, a success with readers, who enjoyed the use of color and its nature as a "quick read," and many of its design innovations have silently been adopted by competing papers. In fact, the last two major "gray" newspapers in the United States, the Times and The Wall Street Journal , have begun using color within the last 10 years, and many other papers have adopted some or all of the paper's innovations, such as a color weather map or daily infographic.
Rounding out the top three papers is The Wall Street Journal . A financial newspaper with a generally conservative bent, the Journal is not necessarily representative of most American newspapers, but its influence on Wall Street, and thus the world, is immense. The Journal trades the title of largest-circulation newspaper in the United States with USA Today on a regular basis. The Journal focuses mainly on business news and approaches national news from a business angle. It has, however, won several Pulitzer Prizes for reporting on non-business news. The paper also has the distinction of owning one of the few Internet sites that actually makes money; the site's content is so unique and valuable that it can successfully charge for subscriptions. The Journal is owned by the Dow Jones corporation, the publisher of the Dow Jones stock index that is used every day to track the performance of the American economy throughout the world. The Journal 's published financial data is also used throughout the country for setting a variety of loan rates, foreign currency conversions, and the like. As of 2002, the Journal 's most recent Pulitzer Prize was won for its response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The paper's offices, across the street from the World Trade Center, were evacuated that morning and were later essentially destroyed when the twin towers collapsed. The employees of the paper evacuated en masse to the paper's printing offices in New Jersey and were actually able to improvise a paper for the next morning.
History of the Press in the United States
The first newspaper in what would become the United States appeared in Boston on September 25, 1690. Benjamin Harris published Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestic , which led with a story about Massachusetts Native Americans celebrating a day of thanksgiving for a successful harvest and went on to mention rumors that the king of France had cuckolded his son. Although Harris, the publisher of the widely-used New England Primer , was a licensed printer, his newspaper only survived one issue.
During the next few decades, several papers appeared, most published by local postmasters who had access to European newspapers and the franking privilege. The longest-lived of these early papers was the Boston News-Letter , first printed in 1704 by postmaster John Campbell. Campbell's paper grew out of a handwritten newsletter that he had distributed to postal customers. Like other papers of the time, the News-Letter consisted generally of news about politics, ship movements, proclamations, speeches, and formal letters. Campbell's paper also included news about fires, shipwrecks, piracy, accidents, and other more sensational and interesting events. Campbell's paper survived for 72 years.
By 1735, printed material was once again becoming an annoyance to at least one colonial government. The Crown governor of New York, who had been attacked in various issues of John Peter Zenger's New York Weekly Journal , prosecuted Zenger on charges of seditious libel. Under British law at that time, truth was not a defense to a charge of seditious libel. The judge instructed the jury to find Zenger guilty if they determined he had indeed printed attacks on the governor, which he undoubtedly had. Perhaps swayed by Zenger's lawyer, Alexander Hamilton, the jury ignored the judge's instructions and found Zenger innocent and freed him.
During the years between Zenger's trial and the beginning of political unrest in the colonies, the best-known paper published was undoubtedly Benjamin Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette . Franklin, a brilliant polymath who consciously presented himself as a rustic farmer, won success with the Gazette and other publications because of his wry style and self-deprecating writing. Unlike his older brother James, Benjamin Franklin was also able to escape being jailed by the colonial authorities—partly by picking a city friendlier to printers.
Franklin is the best-known printer from Revolutionary days, but a host of other editors helped move the colonies closer to rebellion in the years before 1775. In 1765, Parliament passed a Stamp Act specifically aimed at taxing newspapers, legal documents, and other published materials that printers saw as intended to drive them out of business. The short-lived Stamp Act was only the first in a long series of measures designed to tax colonists for supporting British troops in North America that eventually led to rebellion, but it was a significant moment in radicalizing editors against the British government.
Newspapers were only one weapon in the general colonial protest against Britain, but they were a surprisingly effective one, being able to carry news of demonstrations, mock funerals of "Liberty," news of real and perceived abuses against colonists, and perhaps most importantly news from other colonies. The same printer-editors who published newspapers were also responsible for printing and distributing the variety of pamphlets, broadsides, engravings, woodcuts, and other miscellaneous propaganda distributed by revolutionary "Committees of Correspondence" from many of the colonies. During this same period, of course, loyalist printers also published material in support of the British government, and some very conservative editors avoided news of the conflict altogether or swayed back and forth as local political winds dictated.
The most well-known colonial protest against the British government, the Boston Tea Party, is an example of how newspapers helped radicals spread their message. The men who participated in the famous party may have planned their raid at the home and office of the printer Benjamin Edes of the Boston Gazette . Edes' Gazette and other papers printed full accounts of the attack and, more importantly, the rationale behind it, which were clipped and reprinted by other colonial newspapers, spreading the news farther across the colonies at each printing and in a sense recreating the event for each new reader. Without the intervention of the press, the Boston protest, and countless others in the colonies, would have been no more than an example of local hooliganism.
During the Revolution itself, printers of all political orientations found themselves even more closely tied to the fortunes of war. Editors often were forced to flee before approaching armies, and presses—especially Tory presses—became the focus of mob violence on more than one occasion. In addition, the British naval blockade and general economic disruption caused by the war made it more difficult for editors to find supplies and to publish on anything approaching a regular basis. But newspapers had done their work; when John Adams wrote that "The Revolution was effected before the war commenced … this radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution," he referred to the work done not only by the Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence, but also that done by colonial editors.
American independence resulted in a reshaping of the press. For a short time, freed of the war-driven impulse to produce patriotic material, printers reverted to the pre-Revolutionary model of commercialism and relative political neutrality. The upcoming Constitutional Convention and the ratification debates attendant to it, however, meant that editors would once again shift into a more public, political role. A new generation of editors would radically transform their newspapers, create new political roles for themselves, and eventually lay the foundations for the American party system in the years between 1790 and 1830. To understand that transformation, it is important first to examine the social role of printers in colonial and Revolutionary times.
Franklin's example notwithstanding, being a printer in colonial days was hardly a road to political power, prestige, or riches. Although printers were valued by their towns, and their business brought them into contact with the local elite, they were still artisans, sharply separated from the colonial gentry by class, manners, refinement, and occupation. Printing was a difficult and often disgusting business. The youngest apprentice in a colonial office would often be given the job of preparing sheepskin balls used to ink the type. The balls had to be soaked in urine, stamped on, and wrung out to add softness before being brought to the press. Ink was often made in the office by boiling soot in varnish. More experienced printers might spend up to sixteen hours setting type, reading copy with one hand while the other selected individual letters and placed them, backwards and reversed, into a typecase.
The locked typecase—essentially a solid block of lead type with wood frames—would be carried to the press by hand, the type itself beat with inked sheepskin balls, and the press cranked by hand to bring the plate into contact with a sheet of wetted paper. This process would produce one side of one sheet—one "impression." The sheet would then be hung to dry, and the inking, wetting, and cranking process repeated. Two experienced printers could produce about 240 sheets an hour at best. Later, they would repeat the entire process, including setting new type, for the other side of the sheet, and later fold the papers by hand. The total process of producing a rural paper with 500 to 600 copies would take at least a day and most of the night.
During the years immediately following the Revolution, printers' status actually declined throughout the country. As the process of creating a newspaper became more specialized, the job of actually printing a newspaper became increasingly divorced from the process of writing and editing the news. During the 1790s, this trend became more distinct as a new breed of editors turned away from the trade-oriented, mostly commercial, goals of their predecessors. Younger men found themselves increasingly drawn to partisan controversies and found their true calling in editing political newspapers.
From the late 1790s on, partisan newspapers became increasingly more crucial to politics and politicians in America. Partisan newspapers acted as nodal points in the political system, linking ordinary voters to their official representatives and far-flung party constituencies to one another. Political parties existed without formal organization in the early Republic, and partisan newspapers provided a forum in which like-minded politicians could plan events, plot strategy, argue platforms, and rally voters in the long intervals between campaigns and events. Physical political events like speeches, rallies, and banquets with their attendant toasts could only reach a limited number of voters at any given time, but when accounts of them were printed and reprinted in newspapers their geographic reach was vastly extended. In the days before formal party headquarters, local newspaper offices functioned as places in which politicians and editors could meet and plan strategy.
Throughout the nineteenth century, newspapers remained the focal points of political struggles, as parties and factions battled for control of prominent newspapers and regions. Newspapers could also come before formal party organization, as when William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator made him the leading figure of the abolitionist movement and predated the founding of his New England Anti-Slavery Society by a year. When black abolitionists wanted a voice in the movement, they attempted several times to found a newspaper, finally succeeding in 1847 with Frederick Douglass's North Star .
Later journalism historians searching for the origins of objectivity and professionalism would often find their origins in the penny press, started by James Gordon Bennett's New York Sun in 1833. The penny press, which owed its name to the fact that penny papers sold for one or two cents daily, instead of several dollars per year, was more stylistically than substantively different from the partisan newspapers of its day. Bennett and other editors made much out of the fact that they were "independent" in politics, but by independence they meant essentially that they were not dependent upon one party for support.
What the penny press actually did was to combine and extend many of the innovations with which other newspapers were beginning to experiment. The penny papers popularized daily copy sales rather than subscriptions, relied more upon advertising than subscriptions for support, and broadened the audience for reports on crime, courts, Wall Street, and Broadway. The penny papers also continued a process of specialization that led eventually to the "beat" system for reporters and to changes in the internal organization of newsrooms. But the penny press was a uniquely Eastern and urban phenomenon which was evolutionary rather than revolutionary in press history.
In the 1850s and 1860s, sectional politics dominated newspapers, as radical stances began to be taken by all sides on the question of slavery. After the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, eleven Southern states decided to leave the Union, making civil war inevitable. During the war years, newspaper editors often found themselves caught between competing sectional and party loyalties, especially in border states like Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland, while other editors found their papers suppressed by local authorities or by invading armies. Southern editors in particular faced hardship during the war, as the northern blockade dried up the supplies they needed to publish. Other papers, especially in the North, were able to continue their vigorous partisanship; Lincoln wryly noted that even Horace Greeley's Tribune , a Republican and abolitionist paper, only supported him four days a week. Newspaper correspondents vastly expanded their use of the telegraph and photography in reporting on the war; a new genre of "illustrated magazines" made copious use of both picturesque and horrible war scenes.
In the years after the Civil War, the tremendous growth in newspapers that the nineteenth century had seen slowed somewhat. The United States grappled with a deep economic depression throughout the 1870s, and most of the South was still under military occupation. The African-American press was one sector that showed growth in the years after the Civil War, as freed slaves, most of whom had been prevented from learning to read or write, came together to create their own schools, banks, newspapers, and other public institutions. Once again, major new political movements found expression first in partisan newspapers. Editors continued to take strong stands on national political events as well, with the impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson and the increasingly corrupt administration of Ulysses S. Grant at center stage.
During the 1880s, massive changes were underway in the United States that would change the nature of newspapers and of news in the twentieth century. The U.S. economy had recovered from the depression of the 1870s and was beginning to embark on the great decades of industrial expansion that would make it the world's leading economy by the 1940s. Immigrants once again began to flood into eastern cities, accelerating an existing trend towards urbanization and creating a huge demand for foreign-language newspapers. The 1890 census for the first time counted more Americans living in cities than in rural areas. The 1890s in general would become known as one of the most flamboyant eras of American journalism, marked by incredible competition among the large urban dailies.
The two most famous representatives of the newspaper wars of the 1890s were Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Pulitzer, a Hungarian who had immigrated to the United States to fight in the Civil War, bought the failing St. Louis Westliche Post , a German-language Liberal Republican newspaper, at a sheriff's sale in 1878, later combining it with the St. Louis Dispatch . Pulitzer's Post-Dispatch , which changed political orientations when Pulitzer himself became a Democrat, became a model for the kind of crusading urban newspaper that he would later run in New York. Attacking political corruption, wealth, and privilege, Pulitzer sought to create and unify a middle-class reform movement in St. Louis. When he bought the New York World in 1883, his goal was again to rescue a failing newspaper by launching it on a progressive political crusade, partly by supporting issues important to the city's large immigrant population. Hearst, the son of a wealthy California mine owner, actually got his start in journalism working for the World before purchasing the San Francisco Examiner in 1887. When Hearst returned to New York, it was as a direct competitor to Pulitzer. Hearst used his Morning Journal to attack Pulitzer, the city government, and anyone else who caught his eye, and later to encourage the United States to declare war on Spain in 1898. The circulation wars of the 1890s, which led to extremes of sensationalism later called "yellow journalism," pushed both papers' circulations above one million at times.
The period between 1890 and 1920 is also notable as an era in which individual reporters became more well-known than ever before. The era of "muckrakers" is difficult to characterize as a unified set of ideas, but most muckrakers shared a general desire for social reform, a faith in the ability of government and society to overcome problems, and a belief that their exposés would result in action. The topics muckrakers tackled ranged from Ida B. Wells's courageous work to ending lynching in the South to Jacob Riis's portraits of homeless youths in New York. At the other end of the spectrum rest journalists like Lincoln Steffens, whose "Shame of the City" series is representative of a genre that tended to focus on the personal habits and customs of the new immigrants peopling urban areas, and to blame urban corruption, homelessness, poor sanitation, and other urban problems on the ethnic or racial backgrounds of those immigrants.
The years leading up to World War I in many ways marked the high point of the newspaper press in the United States. In 1910, the number of daily newspapers in the United States peaked at 2,600; in 1914, the number of foreign-language dailies in the United States reached a high of 160. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson set up the Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel, to rally press support for the war effort. Creel's committee used a newly passed Espionage Act to limit publication of materials that questioned the war effort, mainly by revoking papers' mailing privileges. Particularly hard-hit was the Socialist press, which in 1913 had counted 323 newspapers with more than two million copies circulated daily, but other non-mainstream newspapers were also attacked by the government.
Although the Creel Committee relied more on voluntary compliance than on federal enforcement, the effort put forth by the government to bring media in line with the war effort led many editors to question the veracity of news told in support of a single point of view. This trend, combined with a general postwar disillusionment towards extreme political and social ideas, accelerated an existing trend towards the objective model of newsgathering. Although the "who, what, when, where, why and how" model of reporting had existed since at least the 1890s, the 1920s marked the first widespread acceptance of objectivity as a goal among newspapers. Increasingly fierce economic competition between newspapers and declining readership also contributed to a trend towards objective reporting; the role of corporate advertisers in supporting papers also encouraged nonpartisanship on the front page. The rise of the one-newspaper town coincided with a shift in thinking on the part of editors, who had to begin seeing their readers less as voters and more as news consumers. As always, objectivity became accepted as a news model first among large urban papers, only slowly making its way into the hinterlands.
The 1920s saw a continued decline in the number of daily newspapers but also the advent of new technologies that would eventually vastly change the news. The first commercial radio station in the United States, KDKA in Pittsburgh, made its debut broadcasting results of the Harding-Cox presidential election in 1920. By 1922, the number of stations had increased to 576, and over 100,000 radios were bought that year alone. The new technology did not at first massively change newspapers, but its popularity combined with continued declines in newspaper readership foreshadowed trends that would continue throughout the twentieth century. In 1926, when Philo Farnsworth first experimented with television sets, 5.5 million radios were in use in the United States.
The 1930s brought the Great Depression to the United States, and newspapers suffered along with the rest of the economy. The American Society of Newspaper Editors led many influential papers in opposing Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs. The defining Supreme Court decision concerning newspapers, Near v. Minnesota , was heard in 1931. In Near , the court held that First Amendment protection against prior restraint extended to prohibit state and local governments, as well as the federal government, from prohibiting publication of a newspaper on any but the most unusual circumstances.
The Depression resulted in a slowing of growth for radio as a medium, but the 1930s also saw the consolidation of stations into national radio networks and the expansion of those networks across the country. The demand for simple, concise reporting for radio news programs helped to push newspapers in the direction of the inverted-pyramid style of writing and did much to institutionalize the cult of objectivity. In addition, federal courts began to allow radio broadcasts and station licenses to be regulated by the government, holding that the radio broadcast spectrum rightly belonged to the public and could be regulated in the public interest. Roosevelt's "fireside chats" used the new medium as a way to communicate directly to the people, contributing to a general 1930s trend towards increasing the power of the federal government relative to the states.
The end of the 1930s saw the advent of World War II in Europe and a growing strain of isolationism in the United States. Many newspapers initially opposed U.S. involvement in the European war, but that opposition evaporated after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
At the beginning of the war, newspapers agreed to voluntarily censor their content under a Code of Wartime Practices developed by Byron Price, a former Associated Press editor. Many newspapers also printed information distributed by the Office of War Information, headed by Elmer Davis, which was a government body set up to disseminate morale-boosting material. World War II newspapers did not generally suffer from the same constraints as papers did under the Creel Committee in World War I, partly because World War II had significantly more support from the general public and from newspapers, and partly because no World War II counterpart of the Espionage Act was used to attack non-mainstream papers. The general economic dislocation caused by the war did cause, however, many newspapers to suspend publication. By the end of 1944, there were only 1,745 daily newspapers being published in the United States, a loss of 360 from 1937.
An important postwar development in newspaper journalism was the Hutchins Commission's report on "A Free and Responsible Press." The report, which argued that a free press had a duty to responsibly report news without scandalmongering or sensationalism, became an important statement of ethics, putting into words the philosophy that the United States press had been groping toward since the 1920s.
On July 1, 1941, two television stations in New York began broadcasting news and programs to tiny audiences in the city. Though television began as a tiny medium and though the war hampered its ability to grow, the new medium expanded rapidly after the war. By 1949, there were more than 100 television stations in the country. The growth of television hurt newspapers, though not as much as was initially predicted. The real victim of the popularity of TV, though, was radio. In the 1950s, many radio stars, including Edward R. Murrow, abandoned radio for television, and radio began to lose its appeal as a mass medium. Radio pioneered the practice of "narrowcasting" starting in the 1950s, as stations abandoned nationally produced content to focus on a specific demographic or ethnic group within its listening area. This early and successful form of target marketing predated and pres-aged efforts by magazines and some newspapers to do the same.
The 1960s were generally a decade of massive change for newspapers. Typesetting changed dramatically as the use of photocomposition and offset presses became widespread. The advent of offset spelled doom not only for the jobs of Linotype operators but also for many other specialized printing trades. The result was a rash of newspaper strikes that continued into the 1970s. Some of the cities struck were Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Portland, St. Louis, St. Paul, San Jose, and Seattle. The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press were shut down for 267 days in 1967 and 1968.
The 1970s saw one of the most dramatic instances of the power of the United States press when the Washington Post 's coverage of the Watergate burglary started a process that led to the resignation of President Nixon. The 1970s were also notable as the decade in which computers first began to invade U.S. newsrooms. Though slow and balky at first, computers would revolutionize typesetting by the 1990s, with later technology making it possible for type to go directly from computer screen to printing plate. The continued decline in multiple-newspaper cities led Congress to pass the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, which allowed competing newspapers to merge essentially all of their operations outside the newsroom if one or both were in financial distress.
The 1980s brought more massive changes to the media in the United States. The first all-news TV network, CNN, debuted in 1980, and the first new national newspaper, USA Today , was first published in 1982. Though both were at first derided by the newspaper press, both survived and prospered. CNN offered the world live coverage of the Gulf War in 1991, and viewers experienced watching U.S. bombs drop on Iraqi targets live and in color. The 1990s will be remembered most as the decade in which the Internet exploded as a major cultural force. Newspapers were quick to build Internet sites and invest in the new technology as part of a "convergence" strategy, although as of the year 2002 profits from the Internet continued to elude most companies.
Increasing consolidation of newspaper chains and ever-decreasing competition have been other major trends of the 1980s and 1990s, with newspaper mergers and buyouts continuing unabated. The booming U.S. economy of the 1990s and the over-inflated stock market undoubtedly contributed to this trend. The largest recorded value of deals struck for newspapers in a single year occurred in 2000, with a total of $15 billion changing hands. Between 1990 and 2000, newspaper companies aggressively sought to expand their holdings in both numbers of newspapers and in specific geographic areas, seeking especially to cluster their holdings in and around metropolitan areas. Newspaper companies also aggressively expanded into television, radio, and the Internet, with mixed results. At the end of 2000, the top 25 media corporations controlled 662 U.S. dailies with a combined daily circulation of 40 million.
Overview of the Economic Climate and its Influence on Media
The information industry in the United States is one of the most dynamic and quickly-growing sectors of an economy that was struggling to recover from recession in the middle of 2002. The prior economic census of the United States, taken in 1997, listed 144,000 businesses devoted to information and communications, with more than $623 billion in gross receipts. Of those businesses, 8,800 were newspaper publishers, with total revenues of $117.3 billion. In 1999, newspaper-publishing companies had about 400,000 employees and carried a total payroll of $26 billion. To say the least, communication industries are not an inconsiderable part of the U.S. economy.
Since 1997, the United States experienced a massive speculative boom in the stock market, fueled mainly if not entirely by companies that promised to use the limitless potential of the Internet to deliver every possible type of service to the home consumer. That speculative bubble burst in the first half of 2001, shortly after the contested George W. Bush versus Al Gore presidential election was finally decided. Uncertainty over the future course of the country, combined with a growing impatience with seemingly empty promises from Internet companies, caused a massive contraction in equities markets throughout 2001 and sent the U.S. economy into a recession.
The business climate was still stagnant in September 2001, when terrorists struck at the heart of the U.S. financial system in attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, devastated the financial district of New York, shut down the U.S. air travel system and the U.S. stock exchanges for days, and caused a massive wave of panic to ripple throughout the country. The economic news was improving somewhat in the summer of 2002, but the long-term outlook remained uncertain.
The falling stock market affected not only Internet companies but other corporations as well, including publicly-held media companies and many of their major advertisers. Many media companies were already coming to terms with falling advertising revenues before the terrorist attacks. The aftermath of September 11 caused businesses to rethink capital expenditures and shift comparatively more money into security-related spending and less into advertising. Newspapers were hurt by declining advertising but were helped somewhat by a rise in newspaper circulation since the attacks and subsequent U.S. military campaign in Central Asia. However, as of the summer of 2002, those short-term circulation gains seemed to be evaporating.
Newspapers in the Mass Media Milieu: Print Media versus Electronic Media
Newspapers make up only one portion of the mass media in the United States, and they make up a declining percentage of the media market. Although the 1997 economic census listed 8,758 newspaper publishers (including daily and weekly papers) and 6,928 periodical publishers, it also listed 6,894 radio broadcasters; 1,895 television broadcasters; 4,679 cable broadcasters; and 14,895 information and data services processing firms. With the recent growth of Internet businesses, print media are taking up an ever smaller share of the media audience.
Although both print and broadcast revenues continued to grow throughout 1998 and 1999, the rate at which newspapers grew, 6.8 percent, is only .4 point ahead of television growth (6.4 percent) and is only about half the rate of radio growth (12.5 percent). By comparison, information and data processing services grew 28.2 percent, and online information services grew by 69.5 percent. Although newspapers still outstripped online services in 1999 in total revenues, $48.5 billion to $21.1 billion, the phenomenal growth of online services implies that newspapers' dominance is limited. Newspapers also had slightly more revenue than TV and radio broadcasters, which had revenues of $47.6 billion in 1999.
One bright spot in the comparison of newspapers to broadcasting agencies has been that newspapers are generally retaining readers better than broadcasters are retaining viewers. In the summer of 2002, the news organizations of the three major networks all reported precipitous declines in the number of viewers their news programs were able to capture.
Types of Newspaper Ownership
Most newspapers in the United States are part of newspaper chains, owned by corporations that control from two to several hundred papers. Although some newspapers are still held privately or controlled by families or trusts, the trend of corporate ownership proliferated in the 1980s and 1990s. A total of only ten companies own newspapers that account for more than half of the United States' daily circulation, and three of those ten companies are privately held. As of May 2001, the top three newspaper companies—Gannett, Knight-Ridder, and the Tribune Co.—owned one-seventh of all daily newspapers, representing one-fourth of the circulation of U.S. newspapers.
In the early 2000s, chain ownership was one of the most hotly debated trends in the United States media. Critics of chains worry about consolidating so much circulation, power, and influence in the hands of a relatively few people, charging that corporate newspapers accept a corporate mentality that substitutes concern for profits and stock prices for journalistic integrity and independence. Another concern is corporate standardization. Recently, Knight-Ridder raised eyebrows across the journalistic world when it converted all of its newspapers' Internet sites to a standard corporate model, including that of the San Jose Mercury-News , which pioneered Internet newspapers. The newspapers' "Real Cities" sites, which are at Web addresses such as kansascity.com and charlotte.com , subsume the newspapers' identities entirely within the context of the corporate, "Real Cities" brand, identifying the papers themselves only vaguely and giving those newsroom teams relatively little credit for the product they produce.
One major consequence of corporate buying is that early 2000s sprees inflated the value of newspapers out of proportion to their actual profit margins. With corporate owners increasingly concerned about servicing their debts, cost cutting seems to be the only way to ensure a cash flow great enough to meet obligations to debtors. More often than not, this means staff cuts, since the major cost centers in newspapers are people and newsprint, and newsprint costs are constant and generally rising.
Of particular concern to many observers of the media scene is the increasing proportion of publishers and even general managers who come from a background in business, instead of in journalism. There is a prevailing feeling among many editors that an MBA may qualify a person to run a business but that a publisher with a business background may subvert the interests of the newspaper and its editorial independence. Of particular concern are the effect of corporate decisions on editorial content and the question of whether editorial matters may be subverted in the interest of or at the request of advertisers and other business interests of the corporation.
Some journalists have increasingly insisted on making a "full disclosure" when reporting or commenting on movies, books, or programming produced by another arm of a massive corporation. A good example would be a commentator for Time criticizing a movie produced by Time Warner, Inc., noting in his or her article the corporate ownership of both types of media. This type of disclosure, however, is only helpful in allowing those readers who were not aware of such cross-ownership to find out about it in the act of reading; it does not provide insight into the editorial decisions that produced the article or commentary in the first place, and it leaves the magazine or newspaper open to concerns of undue corporate influence.
On the other hand, corporate ownership may actually benefit many small-to medium-sized newspapers by creating a company-wide pool of resources and talent that the company can draw upon to make individual newspapers better. Corporate ownership can mean corporate discounts on newsprint, ink, printing presses, and other supplies, and can mean skilled help from within the corporation when presses break, lawsuits are threatened, or disasters strike newspapers. Corporate ownership combined with public financing can also mean that companies have an available pool of money from which to draw for special projects, better coverage, and the hiring process.
Effects of Corporate Ownership
The individual effect of corporate ownership undoubtedly varies from company to company and from newspaper to newspaper. Some papers that operated alone at a very high level might find themselves stifled by a corporate mindset that asks publishers to justify any expense to the head office; on the other hand, an infusion of corporate money, talent, and resources is a godsend to any number of struggling papers.
However, the experience of being bought and sold invariably leads to a period of uncertainty for employees of a newspaper, as the new company generally makes changes in the management structure, management philosophies, and management personnel, to say nothing of other hirings and firings that may affect jobs and morale in the newsroom and in the rest of the paper. Small changes are magnified at small newspapers, which generally have smaller staffs than larger-circulation papers and are thus more likely to be affected by cuts that could be thought insignificant at larger organizations. Half of the newspapers in the United States have circulations below 13,000 readers, and of those papers fully 47 percent changed hands in the six years between 1994 and 2000.
One unique exception to corporate ownership, and one way that some multi-newspaper cities have managed to keep operating, is through joint operating agreements (JOAs). Created in 1970 as an exemption to anti-trust laws, JOAs allow two or three competing papers to merge business and production operations while keeping news-rooms separate and continuing to produce multiple newspapers. There have been 29 JOAs in the United States since the law was passed; 12 still survive. Of the others, all except two ended with one newspaper failing, moving to weekly publication, or merging with the other paper.
Press Media and Electronic Media Audiences
The U.S. newspaper audience is more affluent, well-educated, older, and better employed than the general population, according to a 2000 Mediamark, Inc. survey that tracked participation in media in a given week. About 79 percent of American adults had looked at a newspaper within the past week at the time of the survey. Of people who had a college degree, 89.7 percent had looked at a newspaper, compared with only 60 percent who were not high school graduates. About 83.5 percent of people age 45 to 54 had read a paper, compared with 73.3 percent of people age 18 to 24. Interestingly, white and black Americans read newspapers at equal levels: 79.3 percent of whites and 79.2 percent of blacks had looked at a newspaper.
The same survey found that people who were more poorly educated watched slightly more television; 94 percent of people without a high-school degree watched television in the past week, compared with 91.1 percent of people with college degrees. Income had little effect on television viewing, but it did have a dramatic effect on Internet usage. Only 14.6 percent of people who made less than $10,000 a year had used the Internet within the last month, while 67 percent of people who made more than $50,000 a year had logged on. Interestingly, however, usage dropped precipitously among people making $150,000 a year or more, falling to just 7.6 percent of that population. Education levels made an even more dramatic difference; only 11.6 percent of people with no high school degree had used the Internet, compared with 76.5 percent of people with college degrees.
Advertising revenues remain a major concern for newspaper publishers. In 2001, the last year for which figures were available, newspapers saw a precipitous drop in advertising expenditures on the part of businesses. Retail, national, and classified advertising fell each quarter compared with the same quarter in 2000, which was itself down compared to 1999 spending. Total advertising expenditures fell 4.3 percent in the first quarter, 8.4 percent in the second, 10.3 percent in the third, and 11.9 percent in the fourth, for a total year-to-year decline of 9 percent overall. Classified advertising, which comprises the bulk of most small newspapers' ad revenues, took the greatest hit, declining 15.2 percent from 2000. National advertising fell by 8.5 percent, while retail advertising fell only 3.4 percent. Total ad revenues, in dollar terms, fell from $48.670 billion to $44.318 billion.
The drop in advertising revenues year-to-year has been of great concern to publishers, who rely on advertising for most of their profits. Short-term circulation gains have been evaporating at many newspapers, and many papers continue to face shrinking circulations and the prospect of falling ad revenues as well. Any cuts that come out of papers have to come from within, with employees bearing the brunt of the cuts.
Most newspapers still strive to maintain at least a 1:1 news-advertising ratio. This means in general that news and advertising lineage—a somewhat archaic term— should be approximately equal throughout the newspaper in order for the day's advertising to pay for the daily press run. Ideally, the ad ratio should be skewed slightly farther in the direction of advertising in order to maximize profits and to cost-justify the number of pages appearing in a paper, but most newspapers will generally provide an "open page" when the city desk asks for more space for a certain package of stories or for a long-standing special report. Needless to say, such a ratio is not achieved every day, nor is it achieved through display advertising alone. Weekly inserts and changes in the number of ads placed in the paper day-by-day have a large effect on papers' ad ratios.
With a large portion of a newspaper's revenues coming from advertising, it is no surprise that advertisers sometimes attempt to influence editorial policy, especially with regard to stories that have the potential to adversely affect their businesses. Pressures from individual advertisers can sometimes sway weaker or smaller newspapers to change editorial coverage or even abandon stories entirely. The effect of such pressure, as one might imagine, depends almost entirely upon the portion of a paper's revenue that an individual advertiser provides; the relative editorial strength and independence of the paper's owners; and the newspaper's standing in the community.
Influence of Special Interest Lobbies
Another collection of groups that may affect newspaper coverage of certain events is the various special-interest lobbies that exist across the country. Lobbying organizations command a disproportionate amount of newspaper coverage compared with their actual power and the amount of the population they represent essentially because of their skill at "working the media" and ensuring that they provide
Employment and Average Wage Scales
Though newspaper audiences tend to be more affluent than the rest of the population, newsroom employees tend not to be particularly well-paid compared to other groups. Exact data for newspaper pay scales can be difficult to come by, given that the Census Bureau does not break down wage data from the communications sector to specific categories or wage levels within individual communications sectors. However, wage data taken from the Economic Census of the United States, taken in 1997, suggest that newspaper workers in general are paid well below the more general communications sector and slightly below the average wage for the rest of the United States.
According to the Economic Census, the average pay per worker in the entire communications sector is $42,229 per year, with newspaper workers receiving $29,228 per year. This puts newspaper workers below the average for all newspaper, periodical, book, and database publishers, which average $33,753 per employee per year. By comparison, periodical publishers' workers average $43,500 per year, with book publishers' employees averaging $40,522 per year. Database workers average $38,400 per year, while software publishers' employees make about $69,000 per year.
To expand this view to other forms of media, we find newspaper workers again near the bottom of the pay scale. Motion picture and sound recording workers average $34,000 per year, while television broadcast workers average $50,900 per year. Only radio broadcasters average less than newspaper workers, making about $28,455 per year. The average hourly pay for newspaper employees in 2000 was $14.05 per hour, compared with $13.74 for the entire private sector. However, the average 1999 salary for a full-time worker in the United States was $36,555, placing newspaper employees well below average salary levels.
Strikes and Labor Unions
Between 1990 and 2002, there were two major newspaper strikes in the United States, in Detroit and in Seattle. There were also minor work stoppages at several newspapers, and as of the summer of 2002, there was a curious "byline strike" ongoing at the Washington Post . The relatively small number of strikes in the 1990s partly reflects the economic boom of the decade and partially reflects the dwindling influence unions have over the press.
The major labor unions in the U.S. press have always been somewhat divided between two groups, corresponding roughly to their members' place in the newsroom. One group of unions represented compositors, typesetters, printers, and other persons who were skilled laborers mainly in charge of actually printing the paper. The other group of unions, of which the Newspaper Guild is the survivor, represented reporters, copy editors, and photographers—once blue-collar, hourly-wage occupations that over the course of the twentieth century gradually became white-collar, professionalized, salaried jobs.
Offset technology utterly erased jobs once held by compositors and typesetters, and it took much of the older type of skilled labor out of printing. The elimination of lead type in favor of offset plates means that copy editors and designers can now typeset a page in one computer mouse-click. In the 1990s, newspapers gained the capability to create negatives and even press plates directly from the newsroom, eliminating the legions of skilled workers once needed to make that transition. The new offset presses also brought with them a dramatic fall in labor costs; although Ben Bradlee was wrong when he observed that one man could push a button and a newspaper would be printed, the offset presses do require much less labor to run. Printers' unions still represent the men and women who run offset presses, but their jobs have become more easily replaceable over time. In addition, the fact that as of 2002 large corporations held most newspapers shifted the balance of power decisively in favor of management; companies in the early 2000s have large pools of employees and deep pockets whose reserves that they can use to break a strike.
The Newspaper Guild also has seen a decline in its relative importance and its membership. The Guild was formed in 1933, and members once identified closely with printers and other hourly-wage workers and against their editors and the newspaper's management. Ironically, though, increasing job mobility and wage scales for reporters, editors, and photographers have increased class distinctions between the newsroom and the pressroom. In addition, the growing importance newspapers place on individual reporters, and the recent phenomenon of reporters becoming stars in their own right and being promoted as a result of their reporting, has meant that the ranks of management are increasingly filled with those who once were reporters and editors, blurring distinctions even further. The Guild's membership peaked at 34,800 in 1987 and has been falling ever since. Overall, the percentage of newspaper workers who are union members has dropped from about 17 to 20 percent in 1975 to about 10 percent in 2000.
The largest newspaper strike of the 1990s illustrates these trends in dramatic fashion. In 1990, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News entered into a joint operating agreement. After the JOA, trumpeted by both papers' owners as a cost-saving measure, newsroom workers got an average raise of only $30 per week. Tensions in both papers simmered until July 13, 1995, when 2,500 employees of both papers, represented by six unions, walked off the job.
Gannett and Knight-Ridder, publishers of the News and Free Press , both vowed to continue publication and did. Strikers encouraged union workers in Detroit, a union-heavy and union-friendly city, to boycott the paper, and they did. The result of the strike was disaster for both sides, as circulation, advertising dollars, news-room morale, and salaries all fell. The strike lasted for 19 months, or a total of 583 days. By October 1997 some 40 percent of striking workers were back on the job, but the newspapers continued to struggle. The walkout cost the papers about $300 million, mostly on replacement workers, loss of goodwill, and lost advertising revenues. The papers saw a 280,000-paper drop in circulation, which as of 2002 had not been regained. The unions failed to shut the newspapers down, and the papers have been slow to rehire union members, many of whom took jobs elsewhere or moved out of the newspaper business. The lasting result of the strike has been bitterness and acrimony on both sides.
Following the Detroit strike, the only other major strike as of 2002 was in Seattle, where employees of the Seattle News walked out over a new contract at the end of 2000. The Seattle strike lasted 49 days, and ended at last when the Guild accepted a contract that was essentially identical to the one it had rejected initially.
An interesting development in recent years has been the resurgence of "byline strikes," whereby reporters, columnists, and sometimes photographers refuse to publish bylines with their stories. The impact on a paper's credibility is hard to gauge, though readers have reported frustration in their inability to identify writers and thus their inability to effectively complain about stories that they might not like. The concept of a byline strike was resurrected in New Jersey in April of 2001, where Jersey Journal employees began a byline strike after the paper offered them annual raises of $2 per week. Subsequently, on June 5, 2002, Washington Post employees staged a by line strike to protest the Post 's policy that they write stories both for the newspaper and for the Post 's Web site. The Newspaper Guild called on reporters to delete their bylines both from the paper and from the paper's Web site. The Post was the first newspaper to attempt such a strike, in 1987, and the effect was mixed at best. Many observers have pointed out that most readers tend to ignore bylines in any case, with the obvious exception of syndicated columns. In 2002, the effect of the Post employees' effort remained to be seen.
Circulation Patterns and Prices
Newspapers across the United States are remarkably homogenous in terms of their price. Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers from 2000 show that nearly all U.S. papers charge the same amount for their daily editions, and nearly the same amount for Sunday editions. The median cost of a daily paper has been $.50 since 1996, regardless of the size of the paper or its circulation. Average, or mean, costs tend to vary by circulation groups because a few newspapers charge slightly more or less for daily editions; for all newspapers, the mean cost is $.49. Sunday figures have been stable over the same period, with papers under 25,000 circulation charging a median amount of $1, papers between 25,000 and 50,000 charging $1.25, and papers over 50,000 circulation charging $1.50. The median charge for all Sunday papers is $1.25, and the mean charge is $1.28. Fully 76 percent of the 950 Audit Bureau of Circulations members that release single-copy costs charge 50 cents for their newspapers.
Newsprint Availability and Cost
The availability and price of newsprint remained relatively volatile through the late 1990s and early 2000s, with newspapers' desire to maintain a constant stock of paper colliding with supply constraints in the newsprint milling system. Prices per ton continued to fluctuate, reaching a high of $605 per ton in November of 1998 and falling as low as $470 per ton in September 1999. In 2000, newspapers used 11,983,000 metric tons of newsprint, a 1.1 percent increase over 1999. Stocks on hand remained relatively constant, with newspapers keeping an average of 43 days' supply on hand in 2001 and 2002.
Newsprint is one of the two major cost centers in newspaper publishing, with the other being labor costs. To reduce newsprint costs, many papers have been converting to a smaller "web width" to conserve paper, which is priced per ton. The smaller web width—50 inches at most papers, down from 52 or 54 inches—means that papers are getting perceptibly narrower, and is partially responsible for driving redesigns at many newspapers. The major effect of the shorter width that most consumers notice is that the page takes on a substantially more vertical feel, with story packages stripped down the sides of pages instead of being in horizontally boxed formats. The return to verticality of design is in some ways a throwback to the days before offset printing, when stories were confined to a single column by the technology of the lead type case.
The offset press has also benefited considerably from the revolution in computer technology that newspapers have taken advantage of through the 1980s and 1990s. The advent of the Macintosh computer and the laser printer in 1984 marked the beginning of the desktop publishing revolution and caused newspapers to realize many of the inherent capabilities of the offset press. Computers in many ways have vastly simplified the problems of copy flow throughout newsrooms, forever destroying the position of the copyboy. Copy can now flow relatively seamlessly from the reporter's laptop through phone lines and directly to the printing plate without any "hard copy" ever being printed. Design programs freed designers from the tyranny of the six-or seven-column front, allowing stories to be stripped across pages, story elements to be horizontal rather than vertical, and graphics technology to be employed to create maps, charts, and other visual elements that draw readers into the page. Offset presses also tend to make it easier for newspapers to print four-color art, including photographs and graphics, and to increase the amount of colored elements on the page. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal , for years the last bastion of strict vertical design in the United States, redesigned to use color in all of its sections and actually broke headlines across two columns on its front page.
Distribution networks continue to be a problem for many newspapers, especially those in large cities that have a very time-sensitive population and large traffic problems. Interestingly, the shift to morning publication has meant that many newspapers can be somewhat more flexible with distribution times. Afternoon papers, by their nature absolutely have to arrive by a certain time each day, while most people will not notice the difference between a 4 a.m. and a 5 a.m. throw for morning papers.
In many smaller newspapers, individual carriers, who are independent contractors, are still the preferred method for delivering subscriptions, while the circulation department might own or rent a van or truck to fill up racks across the circulation area. Bigger metropolitan papers, however, usually employ a mixture of carriers, delivery vans, and trucks, and contract with individual commercial companies to distribute newspapers. Recently, many papers have discontinued home delivery for their outlying circulation areas, relying instead on mail services for distribution. At the beginning of 2002, about 44 percent of papers owned their own distribution vehicles; 29 percent contracted; 16.9 percent used employee vehicles; and about 9.7 percent leased vehicles from another company.
Constitutional Guarantees—The History of First Amendment Case Law
Freedom of the press in the United States rests on a firm constitutional bulwark. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1791, states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances." When the First Amendment was written, the federal government was relatively weak but greatly feared by many members of the new United States. The First Amendment, and the other nine amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, is now generally construed as being intended to provide citizens with specific protections against an aggrandizement of power by the federal government. Most state governments had their own Bills of Rights at the time the Constitution was written, and many had stronger protections than the new federal constitution provided.
The United States legal system mixes statute law, common law, and administrative law in what can seem a confusing mishmash of rules. In general, however, most of what we think of as "First Amendment law" comes from U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The court's decisions have common-law value and are constitutionally unchallengeable. In addition, a long-standing recourse to precedents in the common law in courts of appeals and the Supreme Court means that prior decisions generally hold a great deal of value when deciding present cases.
What this means for contemporary observers is that Supreme Court decisions tend to be construed by other lawmaking bodies in terms of general rules, or tests, to be followed in determining the limits of expression. In fact, many of the court's decisions are written with a view towards providing, amplifying, correcting or challenging prior decisions and general rules. Although the federal Congress is generally loath to pass laws that obviously restrict free expression or challenge established precedents, it can and does pass new laws that fall into the many gray areas created by a common-law system and which have to be adjudicated by the courts. The federal and state governments, of course, are always at liberty to grant more freedoms to their citizens than are specifically provided for in laws and court decisions.
When James Madison was asked to write the First Amendment, he began work in a political climate that was acutely aware of the long history of the suppression of press freedoms by British authorities, dating back to Elizabethan times. Moreover, the amendment was written to satisfy Antifederalist opponents of the Constitution who feared that a strong central government would unavoidably usurp state privileges and encroach upon the rights of the common citizen.
Despite Madison's intentions, the despotic power of the federal government would be given full force during Federalist John Adams' presidency, when Congress passed a series of Alien and Sedition Acts. The acts, which were generally aimed at Antifederalist printers and suspicious foreigners who were supporters of Thomas Jefferson, succeeded in jailing some 40 Antifederalist editors and deporting several hundred supporters of the French Revolution. They had the somewhat unintended effect of creating a widespread disgust for the Federalist Party and helped Jefferson win the election of 1800. The acts were quietly left to die, never challenged in court; however, the principle of judicial review was not part of the U.S. polity before the Marbury v. Madison case in 1803.
Press freedoms would again be suppressed by governments during the nineteenth century, but those acts took place on a much more local scale. For example, Andrew Jackson suppressed presses in New Orleans that were sympathetic to the British during the War of 1812. During the great sectional debates over slavery that led up to the Civil War, the postal service routinely denied abolitionist newspapers delivery in the South, and President Lincoln, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and a host of generals on both sides attacked and suspended printing presses during the Civil War. However, there were no major Supreme Court decisions concerning the First Amendment during the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The country had to wait for the turmoil and agitation surrounding the outbreak of World War I for court decisions to articulate definitive theories of First Amendment freedoms.
Theories Concerning First Amendment Freedoms
The one major question that all observers agree on pertains to the freedom from prior restraint. At its base, the First Amendment was designed to prevent federal government—and, because of later decisions, state and local governments—from stopping newspapers and other media from publishing. This idea is generally construed to mean that a system of prior restraint or press licensing, like the colonies had under British rule, is proscribed. Furthermore, the amendment is construed to ban any governmental action that would have the effect of creating a system of prior restraint or of subjecting the press to any form of censorship. The major prior restraint case, Near v. Minnesota , indicated that the form of government action was less important than its effect on the press. In the single case of federal prior restraint, the Pentagon Papers case, a unanimous Supreme Court decision ( New York Times Co. v. United States ) found restraint to be unconstitutional. The Near decision also noted that even if expression is unlawful, it is better punished after the fact than by restraining its publication altogether.
At a very basic level, then, the major question that arises from this assumption is whether press freedom consists of only freedom from prior restraint, or whether press freedom should be construed to include some protections from after-the-fact litigation related to materials already published. The question was not settled in favor of proscribing government interference through criminal sanctions until Schenck v. United States was handed down in 1919.
The original theory of free speech guarantees owes its origins to the publication of John Milton's Areopagitica . Milton's theory of press freedom rests upon the concept of a "marketplace of ideas" in which rational debate can take place. In such a marketplace, good and bad ideas can be given full expression and can be freely debated. In such a system, constitutional protection is given to good ideas as well as bad ideas with full confidence in truth eventually emerging. Protection of all ideas is guaranteed because only their eventual death or survival in the marketplace will tell how truthful or false they are. The concept of a marketplace of ideas enjoyed a renaissance in the press around the turn of the twentieth century; immediately before then, of course, newspapers supported individual political parties and tended not to view themselves as open forums for discussion. This theory was espoused most famously in cases such as Abrams v. United States (1919), Gitlow v. New York (1925), and Whitney v. California (1927). Gitlow is especially important as being the first time the First Amendment protections of free speech were held to be binding on state governments; for a variety of reasons, the course of court decisions following the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment meant that each individual amendment had to be applied against the state governments.
The next major development in theories of press freedom is the Meiklejohn thesis, named for its author, the philosopher Abraham Meiklejohn. In the early 1960s, Meiklejohn argued that the basis for press freedom rests upon the fact that the United States is a self-governing society. He argued that the First Amendment is designed to protect the specific type of speech by which U.S. citizens govern themselves. In essence, Meiklejohn's argument rests on the idea that the people delegate certain powers to government but reserve to themselves the right of oversight of government. Meiklejohn would also add to the First Amendment coverage for speech in all aspects of artistic, literary, scientific, educational, and philosophical endeavors because the ability of people to govern themselves effectively depends so heavily on cultivating educated rationality.
Cases that have embodied the spirit of Meiklejohn's argument include New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964) and, in a decision that expresses the idea in an earlier form, Near v. Minnesota (1931). Sullivan is the defamation case in which the court set forth a strict standard that public officials must follow to prove libel against them. The court's rationale in treating with skepticism libel claims by officials is rooted in the belief that public governance relies on full and vigorous criticism of officials performing their duties and that falsehoods ought only be libelous if they are printed with actual malice and a reckless disregard for the truth. Near is best known for being the first time the court found the First Amendment's freedom of the press clause to be binding on state governments. It also was the case that placed prior restraint of the press beyond the pale of government action.
Other theories of the role of the First Amendment exist, though in less well-reasoned forms. One common interpretation is that the First Amendment functions as a "safety valve" through which extreme elements of society can vent their anger in a safer way than revolution. Another argument, which has gained increasing currency with the growing acceptance of psychological theories of development, is that the ability to freely express oneself is fundamental to individual development and growth. This latter interpretation places the First Amendment within the realm of fundamental human rights, rather than simply constitutional rights guaranteed by government.
Theories in Practice
The Supreme Court has applied these theories to actual cases in a variety of ways. In general, the court has attempted to arrive at decisions which inherently provide observers with a variety of operative tests to use when considering whether some form of speech is permitted or not. Those tests can generally be seen as corresponding to any one of a variety of fundamental tests of the First Amendment.
The most basic definition of the First Amendment is that it provides a central core of protection for any expression in all circumstances. This is known as the absolutist approach to First Amendment law, and it takes its basic approach from the language of the amendment. Absolutists can believe that no law quite literally means no law, but they express this belief in a variety of ways. Most absolutists, despite the name, do understand that there are conditions under which speech can reasonably be restricted; the famous example of crying "Fire" in a theater is the obvious one. The absolutist approach generally defines "law" as including administrative regulations as well as legislative decisions and tends to argue that restrictions on free expression must be contentneutral.
Permissible regulations would focus only on limiting the time, place, and manner of the expression and would be narrowly drawn to restrict the amount of latitude governments would have to restrict speech. The absolutist approach, then, seeks to protect all types of speech, while realizing that communities have a responsibility to protect people's safety and to ensure that speech does not become a nuisance. The time, place, and manner of restrictions could be drawn to take into account the individual needs of communities—no protests at midnight, on public highways, or on the field during public sporting events, for example—as long as they did not interfere with the substance of the regulation. In essence, time, place, and manner restrictions would have to be entirely incidental to speech to be permissible.
Another test of the First Amendment which has claimed a broader following than the absolutist approach is called the "clear and present danger" test. Like the absolutist approach, it is rooted in the ideal of a free market in ideas, but it is more restrictive than the absolutist because it argues that the content of some types of speech can be restricted. The first expression of this test was in the decision of Schenck v. United States (1919). The case focused on a leaflet issued by the American Socialist Party which called on young men to resist the draft in World War I. Schenck, a party officer, was arrested and charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by inciting insubordination in the military. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a Civil War veteran, argued that Schenck's indictment was allowable because the leaflet presented "a clear and present danger" of bringing about insubordination, a problem which Congress had a legitimate right to prevent or about which Congress had at least the right to legislate. The problem with the clear and present danger test, of course, is that how clear and how present the danger is largely subjective. Moreover, the test's application would vary according to external circumstances; forms of speech permissible in peacetime might be censored in wartime. Speech might also face different restrictions as a result of the speaker's proximity to military bases, government institutions, cheering mobs, and the like. And, quite obviously, the test has the effect of allowing government to punish expression under certain conditional circumstances.
Another, even less well-organized approach to deciding First Amendment cases can be called an ad hoc balancing of interests approach. This approach takes into account the fact that laws challenged on First Amendment grounds do not exist in a vacuum but rather are the product of a balancing of interests between free speech and other governmental interests, some of which can be other constitutionally guaranteed rights. A good example of this is the tension inherent in a defendant's right to a "fair, speedy, and public trial." The guarantee of a public trial was meant to do away with the abuses of the English court system, in which the accused often did not have the right to face his accuser or even to learn the nature of the charges against him.
Unfortunately, the amendment drafted in the 1790s has run up against the mass media of the twenty-first century. In many cases, media coverage of a trial can bias or appear to bias its outcome. Especially for defendants caught after a long search or accused of particularly gruesome crimes, the media outcry can bias potential jurors, turn the community against the accused, and generally subvert the ideal that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Closed-courtroom cases are almost always decided on an ad hoc basis by the judge or judges involved.
A host of cases have used the ad hoc approach, and no consistent direction has been given to the court or law-makers as a result. In general, the flaw in the ad hoc approach is that each case must be decided on that basis, weighing the government's interest against the free-speech interest at question. Citizens and journalists can never be sure when their speech may or may not be protected.
The last major approach to the First Amendment focuses on definitional balancing of interests, which essentially argues that classes of speech by definition are outside the pale of First Amendment rights. The classic example of a definable class of speech is obscenity, and anti-obscenity laws show both the strengths and the weaknesses of definitional balancing. On the one hand, defining classes of speech as unprotected is a more consistent approach than the ad hoc balancing approach. Every case of obscene speech is illegal. However, the problem in definitional balancing is defining obscenity, not to mention "fighting words" and a host of other classes of speech that might be illegal. Justice Stewart famously declared that though he could not define obscenity, he knew it when he saw it—an approach that reduces obscenity law to an ad hoc approach.
The other problem with definitional balancing is that it fails to take into account the circumstances and context of speech, even when that speech can be defined. Speech deemed obscene in a men's magazine, such as a description of pedophilia, might not be obscene and might even find high literary expression when in a context such as Nabokov's Lolita . Libel, another definitionally unprotected category of speech, was found to be permissible in certain cases after the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case in 1964.
These four major approaches have not always been consistently applied, nor have they been consistently argued. They are often in conflict. But they do provide some clues as to the likely future approach of the court to communications law. In general, the court of 2002 has embraced an ad hoc balancing approach, with some individual justices leaning more or less in different directions. Often this ad hoc approach has been more restrictive of First Amendment rights than previous courts have been. This court has often found itself using tests to examine specific facts or instances of the case. In general, the court has more often than not asked governments to prove that their restrictions are narrowly tailored when they relate to speech issues.
The current court has used at least three levels of speech when deciding First Amendment cases. The first model of decision-making is based on the actual content of speech; in a definitional-balancing approach, the court has often decided cases on what it perceives as the inherent value of the speech in question.
The second model is based on the mode of transmission of speech, with the court often holding that new media, such as the Internet, live by different rules than older forms of media. In two 1997 cases, Turner v. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Reno v. ACLU , the court held that "must-carry" channel rules apply to cable companies and that restrictions on indecent material transmitted over the Internet are unconstitutional. The convergence of new and old media forms will likely create major problems for the court if it continues to insist that different media have different First Amendment standards.
The court has further recognized that media organizations have a right to publish news only inasmuch as they have the right to gather news. The "right-to-access" rulings that the court has issued in recent years have extended newsgatherers' unique protections under the umbrella of First Amendment rights. In particular, the court has handed down decisions that have the effect of liberalizing Freedom of Information laws by mandating that organizations must cooperate within a reasonable amount of time with citizen requests.
Registration and Licensing of Journalists—Print Media
Journalists in the United States are generally free from requirements that they be either registered or licensed to do their jobs, and newspapers, magazines, and Internet sites can publish freely at any time without any sort of license or official recognition. Efforts to license journalists have never gained any serious momentum in the United States as a result of First Amendment rules against prior restraint; opponents of licensing argue that it would inherently operate as a form of prior restraint.
The closest that newspaper journalists come to registration is in special situations, such as when covering campaigns, the White House, or legislatures, sporting events, or in other situations where security or space restrict access to the subject of coverage. In those situations, press members are issued "credentials" from any one of a variety of bodies, which they must present to gain access. In other situations, groups of correspondents might form "pools" to cover events or speeches in which only a few members of the press can have access. In such situations, the reporters or photographers who are picked by pools to cover the event have an informal but strong understanding that the information they gather is to be shared with all members of the pool equally and without regard to "scoops" or other inter-media competition.
Although credentials are often handed out by the public-relations agency responsible for the people or event being covered—such as a football game or a White House press conference—there are informal or formal understandings that govern credentialing. Generally, media outlets are granted roughly equal numbers of credentials for any given event, meaning that no one organization can have a monopoly on a single event.
Although the credentialing parties could refuse credentials to reporters in retaliation for something they or their organizations published, such heavy-handed censorship tends not to be tolerated by the rest of the correspondents covering that organization. When credentials are denied or unexpectedly "pulled" from a legitimate media organization in retaliation for a story, the rest of the "pool" of correspondents, or the rest of those organizations credentialed to cover an event, often refuse to cover the event at all. Given the fact that any organization in a position to credential reporters is generally dependent on press coverage, such walkouts are usually successful. In a relatively recent case, efforts by Minnesota governor and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura to force media members to wear credentials with the legend "Designated Jackal" resulted in a press outcry which quickly persuaded the governor to drop that idea.
Specific issues with licensing of broadcast stations and broadcast journalists are dealt within the section State Regulation of Broadcast Media. Suffice it to say that broadcast journalists tend to face the same credentialing requirements as print journalists, although the cameras and recording equipment TV and radio journalists use are sometimes a source of dispute, especially over their use in courtrooms. The cameras-in-the-courtroom debate is one that is fought on individual jurisdictional levels and more often than not is mediated between media organizations and individual judges.
Libel and Defamation Laws
Although libel and defamation laws have a long and complex history, the elements common to both are relatively simple. The three elements of libel are the making of a defamatory statement, publication of a defamatory statement, and identification of the person so defamed. Only a living person or an existing corporation or organization can sue for libel because only the party defamed or libeled can sue for damages. Also, the context of a statement can make a significant difference in deciding whether a statement is actionable; calling a convicted murderer inhuman is a vastly different matter from calling a respected surgeon inhuman.
There are at least seven major categories of libelous statements. They are false accusation of a crime; sexual impropriety; mental illness or loathsome disease; business or professional misconduct or incompetence; bankruptcy or fiscal irresponsibility; disgraceful behavior like substance abuse or child molestation; and product disparagement. These categories are not comprehensive. Other statements can be defamatory; indeed, 49 states find a false statement that someone is homosexual or bisexual to be defamatory. Trade libel is a relatively new category of libel, and the case law surrounding it is murky. Many states have passed "veggie libel" laws that seek to protect major agricultural industries from false claims; other states have passed similar statutes with reference to banks or insurance companies.
To successfully bring an action for libel, plaintiffs must prove that a defamatory statement has been made against them; that the statement was published to others; that the plaintiff was identified in the statement; and, in certain cases, that they suffered economic loss as a result of the libel. The requirement to show damages leads individuals into the area of distinguishing between libel per se and libel per quod. Very briefly stated, libel per se is any statement that is libelous upon its face, while libel per quod is any statement that could be libelous given what certain people know about the defamed party. For example, incorrectly stating that John Callahan was just married could be libelous per quod if people who knew Callahan is a priest read that statement. For various complex reasons, libel per se and libel per quod are treated with the same burden of proof in most states, although other states require plaintiffs to show money damages to prove that libel per quod has happened.
Defenses against libel actions vary somewhat given the nature of the case. The most basic defense against libel at common law is truth or "justification." In the United States, truth is for the most part an absolute defense against claims of libel or defamation. However, some states, such as Rhode Island, require that truth bespoken with "justifiable ends" or "good motive." This exception to truth defenses is essentially designed to protect persons from unsavory truths about themselves being used to defame them.
The truth defense is, of course, limited by the ability of a defendant to prove the truth of a statement in a court of law. The scope of the truth defense is also somewhat limited by the fact that the truth or falsity of the charges must be entire; a claim that someone is a compulsive gambler could not be supported by proving one visit to a casino.
The second major category of defenses against defamation rests on a specific privilege that confers immunity against libel suits. Privileges can be qualified or absolute: absolute privilege insulates the person who makes the statement against any charge of defamation, while qualified privileges apply only in specific circumstances and can be questioned in court.
Some persons enjoying absolute privilege include governmental officials working in executive, legislative, judicial, and administrative offices. Statements made in a legislative forum, ranging from the floor of Congress to a city council meeting, enjoy absolute privilege from libel actions. Similarly, judges, lawyers, witnesses, defendants, and plaintiffs all hold absolute privilege for statements made in a judicial setting. The executive and administrative privileges are somewhat more constrained, given the relative scarcity of debate or open meetings in such branches of government. Nevertheless, statements made in an official context by those officials enjoy absolute privilege.
There are also various qualified privileges to make libelous statements, but claims of qualified privilege are always defeated by plaintiffs' establishing malice on the part of defendants. Proving malice requires plaintiffs to prove that the relevant publication was motivated by some consideration other than that which has the privilege in the first place. Qualified privileges tend to be very specific; they include a privilege for a physician to criticize a pharmacist's competence; an employer to criticize an employee to a supervisor; a bank officer to make a charge of forgery; and various other privileges.
The media have qualified privilege based on their function to engage in public oversight of government activity or in order to notify the public of public proceedings. The privilege is based on the idea that if all proceedings were kept secret, potential abuses of power could occur. Journalists must be wary of claiming this privilege, however, because various states can and do construe differently reporters' claims of privilege.
In general, journalists have a qualified privilege to publish accounts of court proceedings or court papers that have been brought before a judge or magistrate but not to publish allegations contained in pretrial papers. Reports of grand jury investigations, district attorneys' investigations, and police proceedings can be dangerous until some action is taken on them, such as an arrest or an indictment. Reporting that someone has been arrested or indicted, however, is always privileged, as long as the form the report takes does not imply the suspect's guilt. Reports of legislative proceedings also hold a privilege, as long as those proceedings were part of an authorized public meeting.
To prove a qualified privilege, defendants must prove that the report is fair and accurate and is motivated by a sense of duty to disclose the information to those receiving it. The report does not have to be completely accurate, as long as inaccuracies do not affect the essential accuracy of the report. Also, if a defamatory result is made for any purpose other than to inform those people who have a "need to know" the information, it can be found to be malicious.
The third major category of defenses against defamation rests on a privilege to fairly comment on news and public events. The fair comment privilege has been rendered somewhat moot concerning public officials by the New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case, since the privilege accorded the media this case is broader than the old "fair comment" privilege. The "fair comment" privilege was construed to allow the media to honestly express a communicator's opinion on matters of public interest, based upon clearly and fairly stated facts in the communication. The privilege was constrained somewhat by a requirement that the comment had to be free of speculation as to the motives of the person whose conduct was criticized. Before Sullivan , the media was generally made free to comment on political, literary, and artistic matters by the "fair comment" defenses, which were construed very broadly by the courts.
In the fourth category of defenses, defamation actions are called "incomplete defenses," because at best they only mitigate damages that can be collected by the plaintiff; they do not bar liability. An example of an incomplete defense is a complete and unequivocal retraction of a libelous statement made in a place that holds the same prominence as the defamatory statement. The retraction can mitigate damages, but the amount of mitigation is generally dependent upon state statutes. Media organizations can also mitigate damages by allowing a defamed person to reply to the defamation by using the organization's facilities, but the use of media facilities is not generally enough to establish "good will" on the part of the organization and can leave the organization open to further punitive damages. A reply can, however, mitigate actual damages, since a defamed party has the opportunity to influence those whose good will had presumably been damaged by the libel. Broadcast organizations can even be compelled to allow defendants to reply; however, any attempt to compel print media to allow a reply has been held to violate the First Amendment.
In recent years, libel actions have become more perilous for media organizations and for others who seek to express themselves under the First Amendment. The actual and punitive damage awards juries have been granting have skyrocketed, to a high of a jury award of $222.7 million in a 1997 libel action by Money Management Research Group, Inc. (MMAR) against Dow Jones and Co. for a Wall Street Journal article stating that MMAR was under investigation. A district court reduced the damages to $22.7 million, and a 1999 holding set aside the ruling entirely when a judge found that MMAR had withheld evidence that would have bolstered Dow Jones' defense. However, the cost of litigating the action alone was staggering, and the initial jury award had an immediately chilling effect on media organizations.
As corporations and agencies have discovered the cost of litigating suits, they have increasingly turned to filing libel suits against public organizations who criticize proposed developments and circulate petitions or call meetings opposing them. Such suits, called "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" (SLAPP), are filed with the specific intention of punishing or harassing anyone critical of the corporation and with the intention of driving poorly-funded citizens' action groups out of business. Nine states have found SLAPP suits to have a chilling effect on public debate and participation in decisions and have passed laws making such suits illegal or calling for early dismissal of such suits. The anti-SLAPP laws have also been construed to apply to media organizations.
The basic distinction between a public figure and a private person was established by the 1974 Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. case and expanded upon in subsequent decisions. Essentially, the court has distinguished between two types of public figures. The first of these types is the all-purpose public figure, such as Michael Jordan, who has such general fame or notoriety that his or her name is a household word. The second type of public figure is a limited-purpose public figure. Limited-purpose public figures are further divided into two categories, based on whether they choose or are thrust into the public eye. Voluntary public figures are those who achieve notoriety by voluntarily thrusting themselves into the "vortex" of a specific public controversy. Ralph Nader would have begun his public life as a voluntary limited-purpose public figure, moving to the status of all-purpose public figure later. Involuntary public figures are those persons who become associated with public events or become placed in the eye of the media by chance, usually related to their involuntary participation in a newsworthy event. Accident survivors often become involuntary limited-purpose public figures.
Privacy invasion as a tort has had a relatively short history in the United States, being recognized for the first time only in 1905. However, privacy laws and invasion-of-privacy cases have been some of the most contentious areas of law in recent times. As of 2002, all 50 states and the District of Columbia recognized invasion of privacy as an offense, but four states recognized a right to privacy only by statute. Liability for privacy cases is complex because there are at least four distinct branches to invasion-of-privacy cases. They include appropriating another's name or likeness; unreasonable intrusion upon another's seclusion; publicity which unreasonably places another in a false light before the public; and unreasonable publicity given to another's personal life. The tort of appropriation seems to be most applicable in the case of celebrities depending on to which application their image or name is put. In essence, modern cases of appropriation have served to create a property right in one's own image, which for many celebrities is of immense value to companies advertising all manner of products through celebrity endorsements. Appropriation of a celebrity's image for one's own use is therefore an offense analogous to a violation of copyright law. The media are relatively seldom sued for such invasions; more often, the victim of a suit is someone who has attempted to appropriate an image for advertising purposes. Media outlets are generally protected by a doctrine of "incidental use," in which depictions of celebrities which are incidental, not central, to an advertising or news product do not constitute violations of privacy. In some states, even dead celebrities—or their heirs—can have property rights in their image violated, although those rights vary widely.
The media have run afoul of intrusion laws much more frequently. The tort of intrusion occurs when one's sphere of privacy is violated without one's consent, by either physical or electronic means. When people are in a public zone, they can be recorded or photographed; however, when they are in their own homes or private places, they cannot be. That distinction also applies without regard to the victim of the intrusion. Reporters and newsgathering organizations have been sued under these statutes for a variety of reasons, ranging from invasion of a voicemail system of the Chiquita company to the use of hidden cameras to investigate a plumber posing as a doctor. Journalists have also been successfully sued for trespass and invasion, most famously in a case involving journalists who applied for jobs at a Food Lion supermarket and used their jobs to illicitly record unsafe food-handling practices at the store.
The upshot of a confusing variety of cases involving intrusion laws is complex. Essentially, journalists should know that misrepresenting themselves to gain entry to private or public property is extremely risky; that unauthorized entry constitutes intrusion and trespass; that permission from public officials is sufficient to gather news in public buildings; and that permission by police or fire officials to enter private property will not necessarily insulate a reporter against damages.
False light suits can be another treacherous area for journalists. Essentially, placing someone in a false light consists of creating a false image of that person or placing him or her in a false light through publication, whether or not that false light is defamatory. This can take several forms, from misrepresenting someone's political views to attributing to them a disease or personality trait that they do not possess. Obviously, false light suits present major problems to news organizations, in which it is often impossible to check every single fact about a person or group. In 1984, the North Carolina Supreme Court recognized that the tension between First Amendment and false light claims is significant, and it decided that false light claims should be rejected as redundant of defamation. Essentially, that means any false claim that causes actual damages can be dealt with through existing libel and defamation laws. By 1999, some 11 states, including North Carolina, had refused to recognize false light claims.
The most difficult area for journalists to currently assess is that of public disclosures of private facts. It is unclear what sorts of private facts are protected by these laws and which ones are not. Most media outlets can escape prosecution for public disclosure if the facts they published are newsworthy. In general, courts have deferred to news organizations' judgment about which facts are newsworthy, meaning that organizations have generally been prosecuted only for publishing facts that are obviously chosen solely because they involve a sensational or prurient issue. The courts have also generally found in favor of news organizations if the facts they described were in the public domain previously, even if they had not been published or broadcast.
Freedom to Gather News
Although the First Amendment protects reporters' rights to publish news, it includes no inherent protection for the right to gather news. Because of the obvious difficulties presented by the fact that government could exclude the media from access to meetings, files, records, and other information, and because of a growing suspicion on the part of the media that not all government restrictions on information had to do with legitimate "national security" issues, a movement to liberalize rules about access to information began in the 1950s and had great success throughout the 1970s. The 1980s saw a bit of backsliding on the part of government agencies, but rules were liberalized again beginning in 1993.
In 1966, Congress passed the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires federal executive and regulatory agencies to publish indexes of documents in the Federal Register and to provide documents on request to citizens. Documents produced by Congress and the White House are exempt from the act. In general, agencies may refuse to release documents for a variety of reasons, including national security and classification, personnel data, trial data, and trade secrets. Agencies that refuse to release documents have the burden of proof if the media or citizens request an administrative hearing.
The original effect of the act was mixed; in general, agencies were more forthcoming with documents, and journalists had a legal basis to make their requests. On the other hand, courts generally upheld agencies' view of exemptions. The act was amended in 1974 and in 1986 to liberalize disclosure rules, establish reasonable searching and copying fees, and include the Office of the President and various other government corporations and independent agencies that had claimed exemptions in the past. In general, FOIA requests are complied with promptly because agencies have an interest in avoiding expensive litigation that can result from delays or denials. Journalists have taken advantage of FOIA disclosures to expose a variety of official secrets, ranging from data on a nuclear accident in New Mexico to military overspending and the CIA's role in overthrowing governments.
Congress extended FOIA protection to electronic records in 1996, requiring agencies to list documents electronically and provide copies of records over the Internet. The act specifies that electronic records, including e-mail messages, are subject to the same disclosure rules as regular paper documents.
A corollary to the FOIA has been a proliferation of federal and state "sunshine" laws designed to open meetings to public view. In 1974, Congress passed a federal open meetings law requiring federal boards, commissions, and agencies to conduct their meetings in public and to record even informal conversations between officials and subcontractors for public consumption. A variety of state statutes have also been passed, but their expansiveness varies with each state. In general, though, Sunshine laws say that the only reason a meeting may be closed is if a board is discussing personnel issues.
The 1970s were also an era in which government agencies and media organizations began to butt heads over the question of access to information about illegal activities gathered in the course of interviews. The question is somewhat thorny because there is no question that access to information about illegal activities would serve a government interest and similarly no question that disclosing such information would make many journalists' jobs untenable. Beginning in the 1970s, some states have passed "shield laws" that protect journalists from being forced to disclose confidential information gathered during interviews or other proceedings. In some states, those laws include protection from subpoenas for newsrooms and news offices, and some statutes also include terms that allow journalists to refuse to testify at grand jury or other court proceedings.
Some journalists claim special privileges based on their "professional" status as journalists, claiming exemptions from subpoenas in the same way that lawyers and doctors might. The problem with the professionalism argument, though, is that because the government does not license journalists, professional status is informal at best.
One court case, Branzburg v. Hayes , has shed some light on the question of journalists testifying. Although the decision in Branzburg is complex, the majority of justices seemed to recognize no unique right for newsper-sons to refuse to testify before grand jury proceedings. The dissenters in the case, however, presented a three-part test to apply to the question that has subsequently been used in federal and state courts. The test would require the government to (1) show that there is probable cause to believe that the newsperson has information clearly related to a specific probable violation of law; (2) show that the information sought cannot be obtained by alternative means less damaging to First Amendment rights; and (3) demonstrate a compelling and overriding interest in that information.
Court actions regarding journalists' claims of privilege have had mixed results. In general, reporters' success in claiming privilege depends on the context of the court proceeding, and courts will not honor claims made before grand juries and trial courts. Courts will honor claims of privilege when the claim is made during civil pretrial proceedings and when confidential information is being sought by the accused and is not critical to his or her defense. However, in cases where journalists are defendants, courts are more likely to find that information is at the heart of the plaintiff's case and cannot be obtained from alternative sources. If a journalist is a plaintiff and wishes to deny information to the defense through a claim of privilege, the claim will be always be denied.
Censorship & State-Press Relations
There is no official means for the government to censor newspapers, magazines, broadcast stations or other media in the United States. There is no federal censorship agency, and no way for the government to effectively enjoin a newspaper or magazine from publishing anything it wants to publish.
Government Efforts to Manage News
In the absence of any official mechanism for censoring the news, the United States substitutes an astonishing variety of informal mechanisms, ranging from official press conferences to whispered tips at cocktail parties, to manage what news journalists print. Recent presidential campaigns, starting with the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, have come up with "rapid response" teams to slant the news of the day in a way that is favorable to their candidate, and many public officials boast of their ability and expertise in managing the press. Media consultants are employed by nearly every government agency worth the title, and the amount of time and money spent on "spin" is astonishing. Even official handouts, charts, and graphs at press conferences reek of efforts to manage the news of the day.
At the same time that working journalists vie with politicians and news managers every day, there is massive official denial that any efforts are made to manage the press. Government investigators continually bemoan the existence of "leaks" from unnamed sources, while government "whistle-blowers," hungry to attack other agencies or motivated by a sincere desire for change, eagerly inform the media of instances of official incompetence, poor planning, or malfeasance. Such whistle-blowers have been instrumental in journalistic reports ranging from the Pentagon Papers case through Watergate and Iran-Contra to the investigations into the intelligence failure surrounding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A common "unofficial-official" method of gauging public support for a particular plan is to have a high government official unofficially "leak" plans to do something to a trusted journalist or alternatively to have an official make a statement at odds with an administration viewpoint. Stories written on such "trial balloons," and the public and international response to them, provide policy guidance to government officials at very little cost to themselves or their credibility. In the summer of 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell co-opted the United States press to float the idea of Palestinian statehood in front of world opinion; seeing an overwhelmingly negative response from the West, President Bush quickly denied that he had ever considered Palestinian statehood.
In the face of such attempts to manage the news, journalists have responded in a variety of ways. Journalists are probably most susceptible to management when they are new to a particular beat and desperate for sources; when they are new to the profession altogether; or when they are given little choice about how to gather the news they report, as with late-night briefings while traveling on campaign airplanes. It is fair to say that most journalists quickly develop a reflexive dislike for managed news, even as they depend on it to some extent for stories and leads to stories. In the best journalistic relationships with public officials, there can exist a love-hate dichotomy between official sources and journalists; both realize that the other is necessary for their own survival, and both tend not to like that fact.
Editorial Influence on Government Policies
There is a massive but probably unquantifiable editorial influence on government policies at every level of government in the United States. The high point of editorial influence on government was probably reached during the 1970s, when the government pullback from the Vietnam War and the resignation of Richard Nixon could be directly traced to pressure applied by the press against the government. Similarly, media pressure and public opinion expressed through the media forced or encouraged the federal government to call for hearings on the Iran-Contra hostage scandal; effected a dramatic turnaround of events that saw President George H. W. Bush fall from 80 percent approval ratings to losing the 1992 election; forced the government first into and then out of Somalia; emboldened the Congress to impeach President Clinton; and was partially responsible for beginning and ending the Internet stock market boom of the 1990s. A subtler trend evident since the September 11 attacks is the continuing undercurrent of media coverage on human-rights abuses and on nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs in Iraq, apparently preparing the way for a United States effort to expel Saddam Hussein. The exact effect the media has had or will have in each of these cases is probably unmeasurable, but to say that the media had no effect on them is ludicrous.
The media is also felt in a variety of more subtle ways, generally expressed through some branch of local or state government not doing something because the newspapers would find out. The media also holds great influence over private corporations both large and small; a recent example of this influence can be felt in media coverage of the Enron scandal that encouraged many other public companies to voluntarily disclose auditing errors or questionable auditing practices.
It is important here to note, however, that the unique characteristics of the U.S. newspaper system mean that the effects of media pressure make themselves felt in unique ways. Because American newspapers and media organizations are committed to a policy of objectivity and political independence, they inherently lack some of the tools for pressuring government that newspapers linked to political parties possess.
In the press system developed in the early days of the American republic and which lasted until the 1920s, partisan newspapers could and did offer politicized solutions to national problems. Movements for the abolition of slavery, for temperance and Prohibition, for and against immigration reform, land tenure reform, education and government reform, and currency reform, to say nothing of the first calls for American independence, found their first reasoned political expression in American newspapers. The political orientation of the newspapers was apparent, and more often than not the solutions offered followed partisan orientation, but they were at least solutions, and many of them found their way into the daily public lives of Americans.
The modern press, by contrast, often finds itself constrained to suggesting solutions only on the editorial page, if there, and often is reactive to government solutions, rather than proactive in creating its own solutions. Scholars of the American press, notably Robert M. Entman, have characterized the modern press as having "power without control" and exercising "pressure without reform." Jeffrey L. Pasley cogently summarizes the arbitrary nature of the modern media in the following passage:
Typically, political power involves the ability to exercise control, implying some direction or purpose. However, this is not what the modern news media have, committed as they are to a policy of political value and lacking as they do the direct link that a successful political party forges between public attitudes, partisan elections, and government policies. Rather, the modern political news media is powerful more as the weather is—an awesome force that moves or destroys without purpose, motive, intention or plan, a power that cannot direct itself toward any particular object. Hence, though surveys have always revealed national-level journalists to be heavily Democratic in their personal beliefs, the news media over the years of the late twentieth century have raised up presidencies and candidates, then smote them down again, seemingly without much regard to substantive issues or ideological affinities. ( The Tyranny of Printers 3 )
Pasley's point is well taken when one considers the peculiar nature of political reporting and the effect it has had on national campaigns in the late twentieth century.
Candidates from both parties have indeed been raised up and smote down based upon allegations of sexual or financial impropriety or on the basis of their perceived friendliness, intelligence, or trustworthiness, with depressing regularity, rather than with reporting on the basis of any major differences between candidates on public issues. Such horse-race coverage characterized the 2000 presidential campaign, in which third-party candidate Ralph Nader was able to make the statement—and have it credibly reported in serious newspapers—that there were no substantial differences between the major-party candidates. While newspapers and the media certainly influence public life, the constraints of their objective stance mean that they tend not to do so in a consistent or even constructive fashion.
Government Control of the Press
There is no direct or indirect government control over the newspaper press through subsidies, licensing, labor policies, licenses for printing, or any other official means. The broadcast media, of course, operate under an entirely different set of regulations, given their relationship with the FCC. The controls that government places on the press tend to be in the form of tax laws, workers-rights laws, and occupational safety laws administered by federal and state agencies and to which all businesses operating in a given area are subject.
Attitude toward Foreign Media
Foreign media representatives in the United States are generally treated in the same way as domestic media representatives. Foreign journalists are not subject to any special visa restrictions or restricted in sending news back to their home countries in the form of wires, cables, e-mail, satellite communications and the like.
There are no laws specifically prohibiting foreign investment in the U.S. media, except in broadcasting, where the FCC has placed specific ownership rules on broadcast licenses. Foreign companies are still not significant players in the domestic media market, except in certain sectors of the book publishing industry.
The United States remains opposed to the UNESCO Declaration of 1978, which was seen at the time by the United States as a Communist-led effort on the part of third-world countries to overthrow Western dominance of the media marketplace by imposing state-run and transnational news organizations. The United States and other Western nations feared that the Soviet-led declaration would mean an effective end to their efforts to set up media organizations in Third World countries and would put official Soviet news agencies on par with independent agencies such as the Associated Press in transnational news organizations. Subsequent to the declaration, a number of U.S. and foreign newspapers formed the World Press Freedom Committee to serve as a "watchdog" on issues of press freedom in the Third World and to provide technical expertise, scholarships, and equipment to foreign journalists. The United States withdrew altogether from UNESCO in 1984, during the Reagan administration, citing mismanagement in the agency as well as the agency's Communication Program as reasons for leaving. As of 2002, the United States had not rejoined UNESCO.
The fears of Soviet control over proposed international news organizations died with the end of the Cold War, and early 2000s activities of the World Press Freedom Committee have focused more specifically on fighting censorship in the Third World, publishing journalism manuals other training documents for journalists in lesser-developed countries, and in intervening directly with leaders of Third World nations to fight for journalists' rights in those countries.
Newspapers in the United States subscribe to a wide variety of news agencies, depending upon their particular region of the country, group ownership, and general focus. Business newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal , of course, are more likely to subscribe to a variety of business wires, while nearly all U.S. newspapers take the Associated Press (AP). Most large papers have access to a set of wires, including the AP, Reuters, Dow Jones, and Bloomberg financial wires, and some wires associated with their individual newspaper company, such as a New York Times wire or a NYT Regional wire.
The Associated Press, founded by a group of New York newspapers in 1848, is the oldest news agency in the world and the leading news agency in the United States. The AP, a nonprofit cooperative funded by members' subscriptions, operates in 121 countries. About 5,000 broadcast stations and 1,700 newspapers subscribe to the AP in the United States alone. An additional 8,500 news organizations subscribe to the AP overseas. The AP employs about 3,700 people in 242 news bureaus around the world, and transmits more than 20 million words and 1,000 photos to the world every day. It claims to transmit data to up to one billion people every day. "AP style" is the most commonly used form of newspaper writing in the United States, and even those papers with their own stylebooks usually defer to the Associated Press Style-book in confusing or unclear cases.
The AP's major competitor, Reuters, was founded in 1851 in London, and operates in 150 countries, giving it a slightly more global reach than the AP. Reuters is a publicly held corporation which focuses more on financial and business news than the AP does. It also makes much of its profit from providing data on companies and business sectors to individual subscribers, rather than being strictly a news bureau like the AP. Reuters has 230 bureaus and claims 53,500 client locations. However, most of these client locations are not the equivalent of the AP's newspaper and broadcast organizations, but are rather locations in financial markets and businesses that subscribe to its automatic quotations services.
Other newswires that stress business and financial news are Bloomberg and Dow Jones. Like Reuters, Bloomberg is a financial news service with most of its subscribers being corporations interested in worldwide financial news. It moves stories on its financial wires and also produces TV and radio programming for broadcast stations worldwide. Bloomberg News employs about 1,200 reporters in 85 bureaus. Dow Jones is Bloomberg's major U.S. competitor; its worldwide market data and market stories are used mainly by financial newspapers, business editors, and corporate bodies.
There are also a variety of news services set up by major newspapers, including the LA Times / Washington Post service, the Chicago Tribune service, and Copley and Gannett services. Newspaper feature syndicates generally deal with rights to non-breaking news content, such as columns, cartoon strips, and the like.
Background & Growth
Broadcasting, on both radio and television, was pioneered in the United States on both a technological and a theoretical level. Many of the experiments that went into wireless technology started as extensions of newspapers; even before spoken news could be transmitted long distances over the air, newspapers would often set up banks of loudspeakers to "broad-cast" election news or sports scores to eager crowds outside their offices.
The first commercial use of radio technology in the United States appears to have been a series of broadcasts made by two Woolworth's department stores to a very limited audience in New York in 1914; the new medium was considered more of a curiosity than a serious alternative to newspapers, and radio receivers were still prohibitively expensive. The U.S. experience in World War I diverted interest from broadcasting and towards more local radio communications for a period of time, and it was not until the 1920s that radio began to gain strength as a medium. In 1920, the Detroit News set up the first newspaper broadcasting station; the Kansas City Star followed the next year. In 1920, KDKA in Pittsburgh set up the first commercial radio station. As radio receivers decreased in both size and price, their commercial availability and attractiveness grew; the new medium reached a "tipping point" in the early 1920s, with the number of receivers in use exploding from a few hundred thousand in 1920 to 5.5 million in 1926. During this period, news broadcasts increased enormously both in variety and in sophistication; the advent of professional "anchormen" and an emphasis on spoken-voice performance began to clarify the difference between newspaper and broadcast styles.
The Depression slowed the growth of radio, but in the long run the economic climate hurt newspaper advertising more. Radio receipts slumped, but the ability of radio to allow people to escape hard times through broadcast dramas made a major difference in the end. Radio started its long transition from being mainly a news medium to mainly an entertainment medium during this period.
The early 1940s moved radio back towards a focus on news as the war in Europe dominated headlines and broadcast stations. The advantage radio had over newspapers—its immediacy and ability for dramatic renditions of the spoken word—was dramatized dramatically in Edward R. Murrow's broadcasts from London, and scores of lesser-known journalists, who broadcast war news from the fronts and news from home to soldiers and sailors far from home.
By the 1950s, most serious observers of the scene would say that radio had peaked; 40 percent of U.S. households had a radio, and listening time had reached a plateau. Some predicted major declines in radio as a new competitor on the broadcast scene—television—was gaining strength. The 1950s were certainly the period in which TV saw its most rapid growth, but by the end of the decade 96 percent of American households owned a radio, and the proliferation of portable and in-car devices meant that the number of listeners was up and likely to stay there. The radio format had changed dramatically, though, as major stars had moved to the new television medium. To some extent, radio had been a victim of its own success; the number of stations grew exponentially faster than spending on advertising; budgets simply would not allow the types of original programming and news shows that the "golden age" of radio had witnessed. Listeners were now treated to a steady diet of single-format music, with occasional "spot" news reports and breezy commentary.
The decisive moment in the ascendancy of television over radio and the event that most clearly showed the transformative nature of television was the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy presidential debate. Radio listeners, and those who read the transcript in newspapers, agreed Nixon had won the substantive part of the debate; on television, however, the sweaty, unshaven Californian was overpowered by Kennedy's charm. Early television anchors became some of the most respected journalists in the United States, and certainly the best-known; Walter Cronkite's famous and principled stand against the war in Vietnam cost Nixon, as he said, middle America.
Cronkite's stand, though, like Edward Murrow's principled and fair attacks on Joseph McCarthy, were very much the exception in television and radio. Broadcasting accelerated the transformation of American journalism toward a nonpartisan, objective method of reporting. Radio and TV stations relied exclusively on commercial advertising to cover their costs; subscriptions were not an alternative, and advertisers demanded stability. A Socialist or Communist radio station could exist, but tenuously, and only insofar as its owners and its programming could meet FCC standards.
Throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, television slowly expanded its hold on the broadcast media. Radio stations, with the exception of public radio, and a few exceptionally principled stations in large metropolitan areas, or very small stations serving rural areas, simply gave up on being serious news organizations and converted almost entirely to a music format, with prepackaged news bought from UPI or another syndicated service. Television stations, on the other hand, continued to take national news seriously and expanded their broadcasts from 10 to 15 to 30 minutes throughout the period. Serious reporting, combined with spot-news availability, brought such disparate events as the Apollo landings, Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald, and the dogs of Birmingham to audiences as they happened.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, though, the three major networks were suffering under the economic crisis that gripped the rest of the United States. As was usual in a recession, advertising revenues were falling, and news programs were coming under increasing fire because they tend to lag behind dramas for revenue-producing value. The time was not ripe—or so it seemed—to launch an all-news, all-the-time cable channel. Nonetheless, 1980 saw the advent of CNN. The initial response to the network was incredulity tempered with wonder: how on earth would anyone find enough news to fill 24 hours of time daily? The new network, however, increasingly caught the attention of busy Americans who did not have the time or patience to wait for a 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. news broadcast. With its repetitive format, simple story content, and a well-earned reputation for fair coverage, CNN caught on quickly. It came before USA Today , but in many ways the two fed on each other's success; the newspaper arguably learned lessons from CNN about story content, coverage, formats, and topics.
The advent of 24-hour cable news, coupled with the increasing availability of cable television to mass audiences, was in many ways a troubling development for the major networks. ESPN followed CNN's lead to launch an all-sports network, with substantial success; in recent years, cable channels have proliferated seemingly beyond reason, with entire channels focused on nothing but fishing, history, various types of shopping, home improvement, and stock-car racing. On the one hand, the multiplication of channels has certainly drained advertising revenue from the major networks; on the other hand, CNN and its subsidiaries have been responsible for recruiting and training a new crop of broadcasters of very high quality. The influence of CNN, with its oft-repeated emphasis on prizing solid journalistic skills above persona appearance or charm, has in the long run been good for cable and broadcast news. The growth in channels, though, combined with the increasing prominence of "star" anchors commanding increasingly inflated salaries, has been less positive for the industry. And the expansion of news stations has resulted in a somewhat diluted talent pool for broadcasters. Many local newscasts still value a demographically broad "news team" over a strongly-skilled one, and many still promote style over substance in reporting.
Broadcasting Licenses and Regulations
Broadcast stations, both TV and radio, operate under somewhat different rules than print organizations. Although broadcast journalists generally operate under the same rules as print journalists when reporting on stories, the stations they work for operate under licenses from the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC, established by the Communications Act of 1934, has jurisdiction over approximately one-half of the broadcast spectrum, which is considered public, collective property. (The other half is reserved for federal government uses; military and civilian agencies take up this portion.) The FCC has specific and limited powers to regulate its portion of the spectrum. The FCC is prohibited from considering questions of competition, market share, mergers, antitrust issues, truth or falsity of advertising materials, and civil cases between broadcasters. These issues are handled by the relevant agency that would handle them outside broadcasting. For example, advertising issues are handled by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); the FCC would only step in if a station continued to broadcast an advertisement deemed to be false and misleading by the FTC. The system is set up in this manner because of a long-standing conflict between state regulation of the spectrum and a desire to let the free market decide most of these issues on its own.
Possibly the best-known of the powers the FCC has is the power to issue licenses for broadcast stations and to renew them, or refuse to renew them, every eight years. This power grows out of the physical limitations of the broadcast spectrum; a certain number of available frequencies set by the laws of physics means that the government has to intervene to ensure that interference does not prevent stations from being heard. At the same time, the government considers itself to have a responsibility to ensure that broadcasters operating on a public spectrum operate in the "public interest." It is important to note that the government's grant of a license does not imply that the grantee holds any property rights in the frequency granted; moreover, no license can be transferred to another holder without FCC approval. The government can revoke a license before the eight-year period, but only after a notice to the licensee and an administrative hearing, during which the burden of proof rests on the FCC.
The FCC's primary role, and the statutory role from which all its other powers flow, is in granting and administering licenses to broadcast stations. The Communications Act makes it illegal for any person to own or operate a station unless it is licensed by the FCC, and the act also mandates that the FCC grant such a license only if it is in the public interest to do so. The commission also has the power to classify stations, determine the band and frequency they will transmit upon, and to approve the power (wattage) of each station.
All applicants for a license must meet certain basic qualifications before the FCC will grant a license, some of which are defined by the FCC and others of which are defined by the Communications Act. The most basic test is citizenship; broadcast licenses cannot be held by non-citizens, foreign corporations, foreign governments, or any company in which non-citizens hold one-fifth of the stock. These requirements are inflexible and can be changed only by Congress, although there are no similar restrictions on foreign ownership of cable systems.
There are also "character" qualifications built into licensing which are not precisely spelled out by the Communications Act or by the FCC. In general, applicants and licensees are screened to ensure that they are honest, would perform well as a licensee, and would follow FCC regulations. There are numerous gray areas within the character qualification. Lying to the FCC about some aspect of the licensing procedure results in automatic disqualification, regardless of the nature of the lie or its significance. These types of denials constitute the majority of FCC denials. Violations of criminal law also pose problems for potential licensees, although even felonies do not result in automatic disqualification. In general, the FCC believes that criminal cases not involving fraud are not relevant unless they affect the licensee's ability or likelihood of being truthful and/or compliant with FCC rules. Even antitrust violations do not always constitute a reason to revoke licenses; in cases involving General Electric and Westinghouse, owners respectively of the NBC and CBS networks, courts found that convictions for violating antitrust law concerned mainly branches of those companies that had little to do with their broadcast networks.
Applicants once had to demonstrate financial qualifications for constructing and operating facilities. The FCC has generally considered that licensees must be able to properly administer a scarce public resource, such as a broadcast frequency. The auction process of bidding on licenses has changed this requirement to mean that the licensee must be able to pay the transaction and to meet expenses for three months. Applicants must also demonstrate that they meet technical minimum qualifications before their applications will even be considered for qualification. An application not meeting minimum capacities will not be processed.
Applicants for renewal of TV licenses also must undergo certain scrutiny related to the Children's Television Act (CTA) of 1990. The FCC has never established any minimum rules on programming, despite widespread belief to the contrary, except in the CTA. The CTA requires applicants for renewal to demonstrate that they have "served the educational and informational needs of children" through programming. The FCC did at one time adopt a set of "guidelines," or unofficial minimum requirements for programming, though it dropped those in 1981 for radio and in 1984 for TV stations.
One major change in broadcast rules has had to do with participation of citizens' committees in the licensing process. Before a 1966 court decision, the public was barred from the licensing process by the FCC, under regulations that limited participation to "parties in interest" of the hearing. Citizens' groups usually participate in the process by filing petitions to deny the applications.
The largest problem often facing the FCC is the need to choose between two competing applicants for a single broadcast frequency. For many years, this process was particularly difficult because the set of criteria the FCC used gave rise to a cumbersome, lengthy process, which did not seem to significantly affect the quality or type of broadcasting in the country. More recently, Congress replaced the entire proceedings with an auction process, in which any applicant meeting the above qualifications can compete. Similarly, questions of renewal of licenses were once considered competitively with new applications, but Congress replaced that proceeding with an automatic-renewal process if the applicant has not violated any of the FCC's rules and regulations. If the renewal is denied, competition for the license will then begin in the auction proceeding.
Cable and Satellite Television
Common law in the United States treats cable television, satellite communications, and Internet law in different and sometimes contradictory ways from how it treats broadcast law in general. Cable television was the first new technology to pose major problems for the FCC and for the courts in determining whether the FCC had jurisdiction over cable systems.
The first cable TV systems were essentially stopgap technologies designed to plug holes in broadcast coverage for persons living in remote, mountainous, or rural areas where broadcast reception was spotty or incomplete. In such regions, communities might pay for a large antenna or receiver at a high point in an area and then transmit the received signals to subscribers via lines strung from the receiver to individual homes. Such systems could also bring in communications from distant cities and thus could eventually offer subscribers access to more stations than the FCC had originally intended to be available for an area when dividing up regions for licensing purposes. The jurisdiction of the FCC over cable systems, however, was not clear, given that the systems were essentially receiving, not transmitting or "broadcasting," units. The question of jurisdiction became even more murky when state and local agencies began to license local cable operators as businesses.
Congress eventually weighed in on the issue with the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, which clarified the split between local and national regulation and gave the FCC and local regulators specific jobs or authority in regulating cable communications. This act was amended in 1992 to add regulations improving the competitive position of broadcast television stations and directed the FCC to develop customer service standards for cable TV companies. The act was again amended in 1996 to further open cable systems to competition, allowing telephone companies to obtain franchises and relaxing rate restrictions.
The major portions of cable television law that deal directly with the First Amendment are those concerned with content regulation. The Supreme Court has held that indecent expression over cable networks can be suppressed, but the court decisions on the matter have so far been case-specific and provide no clear body of guidance to cable operators.
The ability of television to be delivered via communications satellites changed the cable and broadcast marketplace dramatically in the late 1990s. Most court decisions regulating satellite television have dealt with problems of access for local broadcast stations, which was initially unavailable or massively expensive for subscribers to early satellite systems. This was essentially a competitive disadvantage for satellite operators compared to cable systems. As satellite technology has improved, Congress and the courts have allowed satellite operators to deliver local broadcast channels and have allowed operators to broadcast network programming even when local stations' programming is unavailable. Case law concerning ownership of individual satellite dishes is virtually nonexistent, with most of the questions about what a home dish owner can legally receive being decided by administrative regulations.
Electronic News Media
Internet communications have already been tested in court and are likely to be one of the major areas for case law and decisions well into the twenty-first century. Some of the most difficult questions of communications law concern or are related to Internet communications, including questions of copyright, defamation, and privacy law, as well as new areas of the law that are unique to computers and the Internet. The question of jurisdiction over Internet content is also complex and frustrating. The decentralized nature of Internet communication and the means of transmission of Internet content over a variety of networks means that any law attempting to prohibit a certain type of communication in a specific area can be problematic if sites containing that type of communication located in different jurisdictions are accessible to residents of that area. Thus far, states have generally been prohibited from attempting to regulate Internet content under the Interstate Commerce Clause.
Cases concerning indecency, obscenity, and pornography on the Internet have received more media attention than any other area. Most case law in force revolves around the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996, which was designed to prohibit children under the age of 18 from receiving indecent materials. The act criminalized the posting of "patently offensive" materials in a manner that made it accessible to children under 18, as well as criminalizing the knowing transmission of such content to children under 18. The CDA was immediately challenged and was overturned by the Supreme Court for overbreadth and vagueness, as well as for the fact that it was impossible to enforce for sites located outside the United States.
Cases concerning "blocking software" have also received First Amendment attention, especially when librarians or other public officials have used blocking software to prohibit access to indecent sites to patrons. Problems with filtering software have been especially egregious, since various programs have been cited as blocking access to many legitimate sites, such as breast cancer forums and free-speech societies, because of limitations in the software's logic. In one Virginia case, patrons of a county library claimed their First Amendment rights had been violated by the installation of blocking software on library computers. In that case, the court found that there were less invasive ways to serve the government interest in prohibiting access to indecent material. Conversely, a library in California was sued for not providing blocking software after a patron's 12-year-old son accessed pornography on the library's computers. The case was thrown out of court, but a revised complaint was, as of mid-2002, still pending.
An area of the Internet that has received considerable government attention since the Oklahoma City bombing is the wide availability of information on bomb-making and on terrorist attacks online. Although the same information is widely available in books and magazines, its availability online caused great concerns to members of Congress.
Defamation law has also been a contentious area of Internet law. Early cases on defamation seemed to revolve around whether an online service provider exercised editorial control over the information posted on the service; Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe and Stratton Oakmont Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. were cases decided on these merits. The Communications Decency Act clarified the situation somewhat by stating that no provider of content or user of interactive service would be treated as a "publisher" of content provided by another user or content provider. The CDA in this case provided broad protections for individual users.
Copyright law on the Internet has been another contentious area, especially in cases dealing with questions of redistributing copyrighted material such as music or movies. Various forms of software have made redistribution of digital video and music easy and generally available, while those who download songs and videos tend to avoid paying royalties to production companies. Congress in 1998 passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which made provisions of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty applicable to the United States. Suits against companies that provide free access to copyrighted materials, as well as companies that provide software to give people free access to copyrighted materials, filed under the DMCA have generally been successful in enjoining those companies and individuals against providing such services.
In the future, the type of law that is being hesitantly applied to Internet communications may be more generally applied to the media. The phenomenon of convergence means that media types are becoming less well defined, and the basic distinctions between media based on a medium's form of publication are becoming less important. To cite just one example question: should a newspaper that defames someone through streaming audio or video on its Internet site be tried as a television or radio broadcaster, a newspaper, or an Internet service provider? The future of media law will increasingly turn on questions of the jurisdiction, regulation, and definition of media types.
Internet Sites, News Flow & Revenue Models
The United States leads the world both in the number and in the diversity of Internet news sites operated in any country. Online information services saw an estimated 65 percent growth between 1998 and 1999, according to estimates conducted after the 1997 Economic Census of the United States. In 2000, of course, the speculative stock-market frenzy, which was fed by the Internet, burst, and many online sites simply went out of business. The core revenue model of many online sites was called into question in the burst, and many independent news sites went out of business as a result. For more mainstream Internet news sites, the loss of revenue attendant to a concurrent economic slump has often been a major factor in slowing or delaying major changes.
Online innovation has sometimes also been slowed by the relatively wide variety of ways that people use to access the Internet. Many newspapers, to say nothing of television and radio stations, operate Internet sites that have the capability of providing streaming video and audio to consumers, but many of those consumers still have Internet access only through a modem, which has a relatively slow connection speed. The growth of broadband connections to the Internet, either through digital subscriber lines or through cable connections, has been slowed by the recession and needs to pick up speed before technical innovations can be used to their full advantage by media organizations.
In the early days of the Internet, many newspapers experimented with a revenue model that asked readers to subscribe to a site to get access privileges. For the most part, newspapers quickly dropped that idea when they realized that the same information many people were interested in was available for free on other sites. Particularly with regard to national or breaking news, the existence of even one site offering an Associated Press story for free was enough to draw consumers away from a subscription site, and most newspapers simply cannot offer enough unique local content to justify the price of a subscription.
The one major online exception to this trend has been The Wall Street Journal 's Internet site, www.wsj.com . The Interactive Journal has been able to continue charging a subscription fee because of its unique content and the value that it holds for people interested in business and the stock market. The site was also one of the first, and likely still one of the only, online newspaper sites to turn a profit for the company that operates it. It
The downfall of the subscription model left newspaper companies somewhat at a loss for ways to create revenue online. Many publishers initially balked at providing stories free online that people had to pay for in the print edition. However, the growth of advertising on the Internet mitigated that concern to an extent. Many publishers came to believe that the model for an online site would end up looking more like a "shopper" newspaper, which is thrown for free and makes its revenue solely from advertising, rather than that of a standard subscription paper.
The frustrating complication that papers have confronted is a massive lack of success in coming up with a revenue model for online advertising that takes into account both cost and the number of "views" an advertisement gets. Ordinary papers, of course, charge for ads on a relatively well organized basis, based on the number of subscriptions they can legally claim. The theory is that each paper sold translates into a certain number of people viewing an ad. Online advertisers, by contrast, are unwilling to accept "page views" as evidence that an ad has been viewed and have pushed for a "click-through" model for pricing, for ads that direct a consumer to a company's Web site. The ultimate end of this debate remains to be seen.
In addition, the growth of online classified ads has not been as quick or lucrative as some newspapers could have hoped. Online classifieds were immediately trumpeted as the most lucrative source of revenue newspapers could hope to get, and publishers had visions of offering classified ad buyers access to the world, instead of just a single city, with their buy. The problems with online classifieds are partly technical, having to do with searchability issues, and partially cultural—someone who wants to buy a car in the Twin Cities would likely look in the Twin Cities first, rather than online in Boston or anywhere else. However, online classifieds have begun to show some modest growth and have become especially useful for people moving from one city to another.
Other online sites, especially sports sites and some magazine sites, have had some success in using a twotiered subscription model. These sites generally give users a certain amount of content for free—basic stories, photo galleries, and breaking news, for example. "Premuim" content, including streaming video and audio, special columns or reports, and archives of columns, is then available by subscription only. Some newspaper sites have applied this model to their online archives, charging consumers a fee for searching and downloading past content.
The real problems that Internet newspapers have to overcome in the future are partially technological, as with issues related to making Internet publication an easy and quick process for even small newspapers, and partly cultural. Only about 45 percent of adults had accessed the Internet in the last month in the spring of 2000, compared with 79.3 percent who had read a newspaper within the last week. Internet newspapers, however, could be a way for papers to make inroads into a much younger audience; only 73 percent of adults between 18 and 24 had read a newspaper, while 59 percent of that group had accessed the Internet in that same survey.
Education & Training
History of Education
The oldest, and most traditional, method of training journalists in the United States reflects the roots of printing in the urban guild system. In colonial times, aspiring editors would enter the profession as apprentices, bound to a master printer with a standard contract that might have replicated those used for apprentice silversmiths or cordwainers. After a few years of sweeping floors, cleaning presses, collecting loose type, and other menial tasks, the apprentice would gradually learn the skills that were necessary for becoming an independent printer. Skills for newspaper editors would differ only marginally from those of a commercial printer; indeed, most bookbinders and almanac-printers engaged in those occupations only as a sideline to their role as editors. The young apprentice would eventually, skills permitting, become a journeyman printer, possessing most of the skills necessary to run an office on his own and, most importantly, being no longer legally bound to the master. Journeymen, as the name suggests, were free to move about looking for work, although many stayed with a master printer for some time. When a journeyman opened up his own office, he finally gained the status of a master printer and would employ his own journeymen and apprentices.
The method of learning journalism by doing it, rather than through formal training, reflected the relative lack of status of early editors. Printer-editors were anomalous in terms of status in the early Republic. Still, the basic requirements of the job meant that editors had to learn reading and writing, as well as the basics of grammar, style, and composition. (Although exact statistics are murky, anecdotal evidence suggests that most Americans did know how to read, though ability to write was apparently much less common.) The editor might also acquire what education was possible through reading books and other newspapers, and early editors sometimes show a surprising knowledge of history and politics. Yet editors were not required or even encouraged to go to colleges, and the mere fact that editors worked with their hands meant that they could never really aspire to the status of gentlemen. The men who contributed columns to early newspapers are another matter; especially after newspapers became partisan battlegrounds, the caliber of those writing political tracts increased exponentially.
Formal training of journalists began at the height of the partisan press era but was short-lived. Duff Green's Washington Institute holds the distinction of being the first and possibly shortest-lived journalism education program in U.S. history. Green's institute, designed to teach aspiring partisan journalists the basics of running a press, setting type, writing stories, and the like, was shut down after just one year after a Washington printer's union complained that Green was using the school to unfairly compete against union labor.
The next attempt at providing aspiring editors formal education was undertaken not long after the Civil War, by former Confederate general Robert E. Lee. In 1869, Lee, then president of Washington College, suggested granting 50 scholarships to bright, aspiring journalists and hiring a full-time faculty member to teach them the basic principles and practice of journalism. Although his suggestion was approved by the college's governing board, Lee died the next year, and his plan was never put into action.
Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, as the urban press began actively and aggressively fight corruption and graft, newsgathering organizations grew in size and scale. Editors began to argue that the older system of learning-by-doing produced printers with great technical skill but relatively little real knowledge of the world around them or of major events affecting them. As editors began to envision greater roles for themselves—up to and including the presidency—calls for better education increased. As state press associations grew in size and power, the influence they exerted over state legislatures grew as well. The University of Missouri led other state universities in hiring a working editor to give classes in reporting, writing, and editing during the 1870s. Joseph Pulitzer, the flamboyant St. Louis Post-Dispatch and New York World editor, granted Columbia University a multimillion-dollar endowment to found a school of journalism in 1904. Unfortunately, the university's governing board sat on the endowment and did not get around to founding the school until 1913.
The University of Missouri founded the world's first permanent school of journalism in 1908, after nearly thirty years of agitation from the Missouri Press Association. Students in the journalism sequence produced the weekly University Missourian , which survives today as the daily Columbia Missourian , in between taking classes on reporting, editing, and design, as well as the regular university sequence. The Missourian , which is owned by the Missouri Press Foundation, is operated wholly by the school's students, with faculty members serving as editors and managers. Over time, the university and Missouri Press Foundation added a radio station and later a television station to their holdings. As of 2002, KBIAFM and KOMU are NPR and NBC affiliates and operate on the same basis as the Missourian , with students producing and editing content and faculty managing operations. The "Missouri method," which combines hands-on education with a rigorous schedule of classes, has been widely copied.
Education in the 2000s
Most aspiring journalists enter some sort of collegiate journalism education program. While the most distinguished journalism schools, like Missouri, Columbia, Northwestern University, and the University of Texas, operate separate journalism schools, many future journalists major in schools of communications or in media studies. Most large schools grant degrees in specific sequences, allowing students to specialize in newspapers, magazines, television, radio, photojournalism, or advertising. However, most communications and journalism schools separate public relations (PR) and marketing programs from journalism, placing them instead in business schools. The rationale for such separation is that advertising workers represent a specific newspaper, magazine, or broadcast station, while PR and marketing representatives work for individual businesses.
A relatively recent development is the growth of "new media" programs that combine aspects of various sequences, allowing aspiring Internet journalists to learn programming skills as well as combining skills from print and broadcast media. Many schools also offer even more specialized degrees in fields such as agricultural journalism, science journalism, community journalism and visual communications.
Statistics on the Status of Journalism Education
Data from two major organizations, the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication (ASJMC) and the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC), provide some overall statistics about the status of journalism education. In all, 109 programs are accredited by ACEJMC, and another 87 are members of ASJMC but not accredited. Another 260 schools are members of neither program but still grant degrees in journalism and mass communications. In 1999, a total of 157,800 students were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate journalism programs. Of those students, 147,887 were undergraduates and 9,913 were graduate students. In 1998-1999, schools granted 31,778 undergraduate degrees, 2,776 master's degrees, and 177 doctoral degrees.
The number of students studying journalism in 1999 was thought to be a new high for the field and reflected five years of steady growth in programs after declines in the early 1990s. Undergraduate enrollments for the year increased only slightly, by just 0.7 percent, after increasing by 5.8 percent in 1998. Graduate enrollments dropped by 10 percent, continuing a four-year trend. Overall, 94 percent of enrolled students were studying for undergraduate degrees, and 90 percent of graduate students were seeking a master's degree. In part, this pattern reflects a general decline in graduate programs that was characteristic of the late 1990s, as the promise of easy money in the stock market and Internet boom lured students out of college earlier. In part, it also reflected the fact that in a country without formal licensing or qualification procedures for journalists, most students see relatively little value in graduate programs unless they wish to be journalism educators.
Figures for 1999 also reflected a general trend that more women study journalism than do men. About 60 percent of journalism students in 1999 were women, and only in the number of doctoral degrees earned did men outnumber women. Although statistics about race and ethnicity are difficult to come by, it seems that about 26 percent of students studying journalism are members of minority groups, compared with the 23 percent of the general population classified as being minorities.
For the most part, student journalists get practical experience by working at a college newspaper or a campus-wide broadcasting station. Many internship opportunities exist for students who want them; most newspapers, advertising, and broadcast stations run programs for summer interns. More formal internship programs exist for students in nearly every possible specialization, run by colleges, professional organizations, and newspaper chains. American colleges increasingly are requiring all of their students to complete some sort of internship or professional experience program as a degree requirement, and many students are eventually hired by the newspaper or organization they worked for as undergraduates.
Working journalists can belong to any of hundreds of professional organizations, many of which are organized by specialty. Some of the more distinguished organizations are the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the American Newspaper Publishers Association, the Inland Press Organization, and the Society of Professional Journalists. Smaller specialty organizations exist for reporters, assigning editors, copy editors, publishers, photographers, business writers and editors, investigative reporters, science journalists, African-American journalists, and many other groups. Also prominent are state press associations, which represent the rural, community, and suburban press as well as large metro dailies. State press associations are generally active in lobbying local and state governments, providing legal advice and help to smaller papers, holding press competitions, granting awards and other activities.
The most distinguished awards in American journalism are the Pulitzer Prizes, given by a committee located at Columbia University. As of 2002, the Pulitzer Prize Board awards 21 prizes per year, covering excellence in journalism, letters, and music. Journalism awards cover areas such as investigative reporting, local breaking news reporting, explanatory reporting, national affairs reporting, international affairs reporting, beat reporting, feature writing, commentary, criticism, editorial writing, editorial cartooning, spot news photography, and feature photography. Of particular note is the public service award, given each year to a newspaper—never an individual— which performed a significant public service to its community or the nation. Since the awards' inception, more Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded to the New York Times than any other newspaper.
As the United States press enters the twenty-first century, it faces an uncertain future. Newspapers represent a shrinking portion of the U.S. media dollar, with broadcasting gaining ground daily and the Internet representing a tremendous, unknown factor in the race for the media dollar in the next century. Convergence, the buzzword of media seminars in recent years, offers newspapers both new opportunity and a radically different way of thinking about and covering the news.
As the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, proved, the United States media will not stay comfortably isolated from the problems of the rest of the world. The demand for international news is as high in 2002 as it ever has been, and news organizations are facing a new realization that they have an obligation to report compelling stories about the rest of the world—not just to boost readership, but because readers have a need to understand the world around them. The proportion of international news found in newspapers continues to climb, and journalists continue to search for new ways to tell their stories.
As the U.S. economy continues to strengthen, advertising dollars will begin to flow back to newspapers, allowing them to spend money on covering national and international events better. A small pause in mergers will likely end, with newspapers and newspaper companies newly flush with cash looking to buy more properties. The economic recession meant that many students who had planned to graduate in 2002 stayed in graduate school for a period of time, meaning that the recent decline in graduate enrollments in journalism may turn around in the near future.
Newspapers remain in many ways the same medium they always have been, concerned with providing their readers a mix of local, national, and international news, tempered with light relief in the form of columns, features, and comics. But more and more newspapers are finding it necessary and useful to fulfill their obligations to their communities by becoming more vocal in their editorial columns, calling on their readers for ideas and participation in seminars and other media-run events, and spending more time analyzing and explaining the news, instead of just reporting it. As the world becomes more complex, newspapers face a greater challenge to explain that world and to guide readers through it in an intelligible fashion. Newspapers in the next century will become much more than clearinghouses of information. They will become guides to their communities and once again become strong voices in the leadership of their communities and their nation.
- 1997: The Supreme Court strikes down the federal Communications Decency Act, claiming that it goes too far in attempting to ban pornography and obscene expression online; the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 continues to create waves in the broadcasting industry, as telecommunications giants moved into new fields and continued buying led to massive new media empires.
- 1998: Congress passes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which applies provisions of the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms treaty to the United States.
- 1999: Two journalists working for the Atlanta Constitution were jailed for contempt of court after refusing to reveal their sources.
- 2000: A contractual dispute between Time Warner Cable and Walt Disney, owner of the ABC and ESPN networks, led to a 39-hour blackout of ABC stations in some 3.5 million homes; during a raid on the home of relatives of Elian Gonzales, an NBC news crew assigned to cover the event by a pool of reporters was assaulted by Immigration and Naturalization Service representatives; in a contempt-of-court case, the editor of the Sacramento Valley Mirror was jailed for five days after he refused to reveal a source; media companies spent more than $15 billion on buying properties, a new record.
- 2001: On September 11, terrorists fly three planes loaded with fuel and people into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Another plane crashes in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people die as a result of the attacks; the Bush administration calls on broadcast stations to stop airing videotapes of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group, claiming that they "aid and abet" terrorism. Some stations comply; the U.S. attack on Afghanistan brings to the forefront new iterations of old debates between the press and government concerning military affairs; a stagnant economy means fewer mergers and buyouts for media organizations.
- 2002: Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is killed in Pakistan, while covering the al-Qaeda organization.
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