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BREACH OF FAITH: A Crisis of Coverage in the Age of Corporate Newspapering

Gene Roberts, Editor, Thomas Kunkel, Editor
Gene Roberts, Editor, Thomas Kunkel, Editor . Univ. of Arkansas $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-55728-728-1
Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
Paperback - 243 pages - 978-1-55728-808-0
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Enormous changes have taken place in the newspaper industry in recent years, from the birth of USA Today to the growth of Web-based media, introducing a host of questions about these changes' impact on average American newspapers in particular and on democracy as a whole. Newspaper editor Roberts (New York Times; Philadelphia Inquirer) and a group of journalists have been studying these questions and have released their findings in a pair of volumes. The first, Leaving Readers Behind (2001), focused on the economics of these changes. This second volume focuses on these changes' impact on the content of daily papers. While these eight essays touch on a variety of concerns—declining coverage of statehouse politics even as lobbyists grab more power, increasing coverage of business and sports, and the decrease of national and international coverage—there's an underlying despair that runs throughout them. Modern newspapers are better written and better looking, but they've lost their distinctive flavor, these writers say, that "essential local ingredient" that makes readers loyal. Worse, they avoid important national and most international stories; "a foreign story that doesn't involve bombs, natural disasters, or financial calamity" rarely makes it into the news. Focus group researchers argue that this trend mirrors readers' preferences, yet many of these essays insist that to maintain an informed electorate, newspapers need to refocus on hard news and let the accountants worry about the bottom line. J-school students and media policy makers will benefit greatly from this wise collection. (Dec.)

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