Shrinking news

I off to New York City for the next couple of days for “Media Diversity and Localism: Meanings, Metrics, and the Public Interest.” I’m presenting some research on how successive presidential campaigns were covered in 1992, 1996, and 2000. My analysis looks, very simply, on the totality of word frequencies in coverage for each year. This alone, of course, doesn’t tell us much about the meaning of this coverage, but I argue it does tell us something about the style and focus of that coverage.

The results? This has been on the back burner for a long time now, and I’m only now getting all the data together. Nonetheless, it appears as though the “prestige press” grew more self-similar over the three elections, while coverage in large–but still mainly local–newspapers remained dissimilar from both the prestige press and itself.

The real question is how ownership affects this balance. I’ll have some preliminary things to say about this during my presentation Tuesday morning, but for now it seems that (perhaps unsurprisingly) co-ownership of two newspapers tends to result in increasingly similar style and content of coverage.

If you are interested in a very preliminary extended abstract, I have a pdf here. When I get back, I may write a bit more about blogging work “in progress,” and why academic blogs often look less than academic. And, more specifically, why I didn’t post interum steps in this research and how research is like democracy and sausage.

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