Monday, March 07, 2005

"Do newspapers give the news?"

The title of this post comes from the rhetorical question asked by the author of what was probably the first quantitative newspaper analysis ever, published in 1893.

Its author showed how, between 1881 and 1893, New York newspapers had dropped their coverage of religious, scientific, and literary matters in favor of gossip, sports, and scandals.

In a similar but far more simplistic study published in 1910, Mathews attempted to reveal the overwhelming space that one New York daily newspaper devoted to "demoralizing," "unwholesome," and "trivial" matters as opposed to "worthwhile" news items. By simply measuring the column inches that newspapers devoted to particular subject matters, journalists in the early 20th century attempted to reveal "the truth about newspapers." (Street, 1909). Some believed that they had found a way of showing that the profit motive was the cause of "cheap yellow journalism" (Wilcox, 1900); others became convinced that they had established "the influence of newspaper presentations on the growth of crime and other antisocial activity" (Fenton, 1910).

-Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology (2004), p.5

Just another historical tidbit to ponder and mull over, brought to you by CaliValleyGirl.


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