Date of Award

Spring 1998

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Wolfgang Pindur

Committee Member

William Leavitt

Committee Member

Christopher Colburn


This study uses quantitative content analysis, with qualitative elite interviewing as a supplemental tool, to investigate the role of the Daily Press newspaper in creating, framing and fostering the locally controversial issues of regionalism and consolidation on the Virginia Peninsula from 1944-1996.

The investigation supports earlier findings regarding the second-level of Agenda-setting in terms of the newspaper's ability to cumulatively create "the pictures in our heads" of events or issues. The dissertation suggests that by selecting thematically related attributes over time, the newspaper acts to transmit issue salience, but that the potential impact of the "picture in our heads" is ameliorated by the effectiveness of the frame chosen by the paper and how well that frame connects with the community.

Another important finding is that public journalism has been practiced by the Daily Press through family and corporate ownership without being labeled, for more than half a century. The study suggests that civic activism on the part of the paper can be very effective in creating spaces for public deliberation of public policy issues. But, when the newspaper acts apart from the community, this study suggests that civically active journalism can reduce the special nature of the newspaper to act as an advocate for the community and to enhance civic capacity and actually creates a "disconnect" between the newspaper and its community regarding specific public policy issues.