Interlocking among American Newspaper Organizations Revisited: “Pressure from the Top” and Its Influence on Newsroom and Content

Adam J. Saffer, Deborah L. Dwyer, Jennifer L. Harker, Christopher E. Etheridge, Mariam Turner, Daniel Riffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Today’s media companies seem to be more intertwined than ever. But are they? Do these “interlocks” affect editors and the content journalists produce? This study uses a three-method design to examine the connections among newspaper organizations and corporations. The network analysis examined the interlocks among newspaper companies’ directors. The second phase surveyed editors of newspapers owned by these companies to assess the influence on the newsroom from the board and parent company. In the third phase, news coverage of directors and their affiliated organizations was content analyzed for newspapers whose editors perceived pressure “from above.” The network analysis results suggest a monolithic interlocking structure that previous scholars feared. For one-third of survey respondents, corporate parents and the boardroom were seen as influencing the newsroom. These “pressured editors” perceived significantly stronger pressures from the boardroom, “ownership/upper management,” and business interests than editors who did not indicate pressure from above. So, how did pressured newsrooms cover ownership and directors? Routine coverage of directors and their affiliated organizations was lacking. Disclosure of a relationship between a director or affiliated organization and the newspaper was disclosed half of the time and traditional journalistic scrutiny was applied less than half of the time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-469
Number of pages29
JournalMass Communication and Society
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 5 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Mass Communication & Society Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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