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The Vanishing Newspaper [2nd Ed]

Saving Journalism in the Information Age

Philip Meyer

Publication Year: 2009

Five years ago in The Vanishing Newspaper, Philip Meyer offered the newspaper industry a business model for preserving and stabilizing the social responsibility functions of the press in a way that could outlast technology-driven changes in media forms. Now he has updated this groundbreaking volume, taking current declines in circulation and the number of dailies into consideration and offering a greater variety of ways to save journalism.
Meyer’s “influence model” is based on the premise that a newspaper’s main product is not news or information, but influence: societal influence, which is not for sale, and commercial influence, which is. The model is supported by an abundance of empirical evidence, including statistical assessments of the quality and influence of the journalist’s product, as well as its effects on business success.
Meyer now applies this empirical evidence to recent developments, such as the impact of Craigslist and current trends in information technologies. New charts show how a surge in newsroom employment propped up readership in the 1980s, and data on the effects of newsroom desegregation are now included. Meyer’s most controversial suggestion, making certification available for reporters and editors, has been gaining ground. This new edition discusses several examples of certificate programs that are emerging in organizations both old and new.
Understanding the relationship between quality and profit probably will not save traditional newspapers, but Meyer argues that such knowledge can guide new media enterprises. He believes that we have the tools to sustain high-quality journalism and preserve its unique social functions, though in a transformed way.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction to the Second Edition

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pp. 1-4

For some, the apocalypse came sooner than expected. The 2008–9 recession overlaid a cyclical downturn on top of the long, slow secular decline in readership that newspapers had been experiencing since the 1970s. Newspaper owners who had leveraged their acquisitions in the expectation of a steady-state...

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pp. 5-8

Journalism is in trouble. This book is an attempt to do something about it.
The idea was born on Flattop Mountain in North Carolina in the summer of 2001. I was reading The Sum of Our Discontent: Why Numbers Make us Irrational by David Boyle and following an Internet...

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1. The Influence Model

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pp. 9-37

Once when William Allen White visited Boston, two young reporters, Louis Lyons of The Boston Globe and Charles Morton of the Transcript, sought him out for an interview. The sage of Emporia put his arms around the two men and said, “We all have the...

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2. How Newspapers Made Money

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pp. 38-49

To appreciate how the locale for Byron’s poem serves as a metaphor for the American newspaper industry, drive a short distance north of Montreaux, Switzerland, and visit the Rock of Chillon. It sits on the eastern edge of Lake Geneva, and it was fortified in the...

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3. How Advertisers Made Decisions

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pp. 50-65

If the influence model is a realistic description of how newspapers really worked, there should be some evidence that advertisers considered a newspaper’s influence when making their buying decisions...

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4. Credibility and Influence

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pp. 66-81

When I left graduate school at the age of twenty-seven and started covering education for The Miami Herald, a school official gave me some advice. “The Herald carries a big stick in this community,” he said. “Use it carefully.”...

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5. Accuracy in Reporting

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pp. 82-105

In 2003, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was caught creating fabrications for major stories and putting them in the paper. He had been doing it for several months. Observers wondered how he got away with it for so long. Why didn’t his sources blow...

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6. Readability

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pp. 106-119

When Blanche Perkins taught journalism at Clay County (Kansas) Community High School in the 1940s, she told her students to “write for a 12-year-old child.” Edwin A. Lahey, as the Washington bureau chief for Knight Newspapers in the 1960s, advised his...

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7. Do Editors Matter?

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pp. 120-137

Once while attending a newspaper marketing seminar in Du- rango, Colo., I took a side trip to visit the nearby Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. They were built by a long-vanished people who were part of the migration from Asia, across the Bering land bridge, ...

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8. The Last Line of Defense

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pp. 138-150

When Christine Urban reported on newspaper credibility in 1989, she gave equal weight to factual errors and mistakes in spelling or grammar as sources of public mistrust.1 In Chapter 5, we found support for her assertion that factual errors are important...

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9. Capacity Measures

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pp. 151-163

Measuring quality in journalism is a little bit like measuring love. Once at a meeting of professors who specialize in media ethics, I expressed the view (borrowed from science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein) that if a phenomenon exists, it has to exist in...

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10. When Newspapers Met Wall Street

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pp. 164-185

Knight Newspapers went public on April 22, 1969, with an initial offering of 950,000 shares. John S. Knight had yielded the titles of chairman and chief executive officer to his brother James L. two years earlier, but he retained the title of editorial chairman. In that role, and because of his history as a founder of the company...

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11. Saving Journalism

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pp. 186-214

How far have we come? The material in this book is based partly on reporting and partly on sitting and thinking. So far, the reporting part has produced evidence for the following things to think about when considering the newspaper business as it operated in the United States at the turn of the twenty-first century...

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12. Feet on the Street

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pp. 215-230

Maybe the bean counters will get religion. Maybe the suits who run media corporations will give more attention to social responsibility. Let’s not wait. The time has come to think about some things that we with our journalistic boots on the ground can do while...

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pp. 231-232

Where do we go from here? The problem of preserving quality in journalism gets especially close attention during cyclical economic downturns. But the underlying problem is not cyclical at all. The business cycle can attenuate or exaggerate the trend, but...

Appendix: Notes on Data Analysis

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pp. 233-238


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pp. 239-245

About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 260-261

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272034
E-ISBN-10: 0826272037
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218773
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218776

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: charts, tables
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 2nd ed.