Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication/TheatreArts

Committee Director

Tim J. Anderson

Committee Member

Sean Sadri

Committee Member

Burton St. John

Abstract

Print newspapers are in an age of disruption that has radically affected readership, news consumption, news production and news distribution. As such, the industry has experimented with new business models that incorporate online, including blog-style reporting, short-format stories, and investigatory reporting via social media. This experimentation could be identified as a Kuhnian pre-paradigmatic phase of a print news industry in crisis. Meanwhile the workforce of print newspapers is experiencing a disruption of identity as what it means to be a journalist has changed in reaction. Exodus of journalists from print newspapers has been both involuntary through layoffs and voluntary as journalists themselves analyze external factors, including economy, technology, social and readership habits, and business practices and models. Amid layoffs and cutbacks, journalists who stay in the print newspaper industry are being asked to do more in newsrooms with less staff, and to do more of their work for online distribution. They see coworkers, some in the industry for decades, subject to early retirement buyouts and layoffs. The decisions to leave aren’t made easily, but they are becoming logical as they realize these rising industry trends have altered the print journalism industry, and it is no longer the kind of journalism they signed up for.

Findings in this thesis confirm that the workforce agrees with prior research that factors contributing to newspapers’ decline include online/digital technology, changes in advertising and competition, changes in readership, changes in newspaper ownership/management, and economic factors. This mixed methods study of journalists and former journalists has found that these factors have contributed to a 66.8% reduction in overall perception of stability over participants’ career-spans. Follow-up interviews of survey participants examined turning points in careers, and found a majority of journalists reported feelings of instability about the future of their careers as a result of the instability of the overall newspaper industry. Job change and opportunity correlates to perception of greater stability, and generational review of the findings revealed that Baby Boomer journalists had greater perception of stability at the start of their careers and have experienced a greater increase in perception of instability as their careers progressed than younger generations. Analysis of these and other findings considers what’s at stake for the workforce of print newspapers amid a disruption in the established paradigm.

ISBN

9781369143737

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