Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Newspapers

Despite an aging and declining readership, newspapers remain the major organizations for the practice of journalism. Newspapers control the culture of journalism and offer the most readily available jobs to those who want to enter the profession.

Newspapers are highly profitable businesses, in part because most of them operate in monopolistic environments. Few cities in the early 21st century have competing daily newspapers, unlike the situation in most cities at the beginning of the 20th century. Consequently newspapers can charge premium rates to advertisers, and they can raise subscription prices without fear of being undercut by competing newspapers.

Most newspapers have similar organizational structures, beginning with the publisher at the top and an editor or editor-in-chief, who is the most visible member of the newspaper's editorial staff. The managing editor is the person who has the responsibility of getting the newspaper out every day.

The editorial staff of a newspaper is divided into "sections" or "desks." Normally, these include city or metro desks, sports, business, and features or lifestyles. Supporting section are the copydesk, the graphics section and the photo desk.

Take a look at the newspaper profiles (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) found in this chapter. Assign your students to write similar (or more extensive) profiles of the newspapers in your area. The starting point for this assignment would be the latest Editor and Publisher Yearbook, which the local library is likely to have.

Study questions
  • What are some of the things that make newspapers distinctive from other news media?

  • What are the biggest challenges facing newspapers today?

  • What is meant by concentration of ownership?

  • How do newspapers make money? What are the two major ways newspapers have of gaining revenue?

  • What does a managing editor do?

  • Describe in general the organization of a newspaper?

  • Why are the editorial page and the editorial section of a newspaper so important?

  • What are the aspects of small town journalism that would make people consider working in that realm?

Chapter notes

Job definitions. Take a look at the newspaper organizational chart (click on the image or here). By clicking on some of the rectangles of the major positions, you will open up a new window that gives a description of that position.

Newspaper circulation. In the fall of 2004, a report was issued by the Audit Bureau of Circulations showing another decline in newspaper readership. Here is part of what the New York Times story said about the report:

  • The losses were widespread, with two-thirds of papers reporting flat or declining circulation, including The Washington Post and The Daily News, according to an analysis by the Newspaper Association of America of figures released yesterday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. And the industry's decline was more evident on Sundays.
  • The average daily circulation for the nation's 841 daily newspapers fell 0.9 percent, to 47,711,751, for the six months ended Sept. 30, as compared with the period a year earlier, according to the newspaper association. For those 662 papers that publish Sundays, the drop over the same period was 1.5 percent, to 51,625,241, according to the association's analysis.

An annual report on the news media. For an up-to-date report on newspapers, check out the annual report of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Committee of Concerned Journalists ( The report has sections on each media, including newspapers (2004 report). This report talks about the overall state of newspapers, economic conditions, content, readership, news investment, and ownership.

Key concepts and terms

• Newspapers are highly profitable businesses, but they are facing an uncertain future because fewer and fewer young people seem to be reading them regularly.

• One of the major trends for newspapers during the last half of the 20th century was concentration of ownership; that is, fewer and fewer companies are owning more and more newspapers.

• Newspapers get revenue from two sources: 60 to 80 percent from advertising and 20 to 40 percent from sales and circulation.

Local news – this consists of news stories, photographs, charts and other material that is produced by the newspaper's staff; most people consider local news and the production of local news the most important thing a newspaper does.

Managing editor – the person who is in charge of the day-to-day production of the newspaper.

• In the United States today there are fewer than 1,500 daily newspapers; in 1910, there were more than 2,000.

• The number of regular newspaper readers and the number of newspapers in circulation have remained about the same for many years, while the population has grown. Thus, newspapers have been circulating to a declining proportion of the population.

Related web
sites for
Chapter 4

American Society of Newspaper Editors

NAA: Newspaper Association of America

Readership Institute

Editor and Publisher

Section I | 1: News and Society  |  2: Culture of Journalism  |  3: Becoming a Journalist
Section II  |  4: Newspapers  |  5: Magazines  |  6: Television and Radio  |  7: News Web Sites
Section III  |  8: Reporters  |  9: Reporting  |  10: Writing news and features  |  11: Style  | 
12: Editors13: Editing and headline writing  |  14: Visual Journalists  |
  15: Graphics Journalism  |  16: Photojournalism  |  17: Publication Design  |
  18: Broadcasters  |  19: Writing for Broadcast
Section IV  |  20: Beginnings of Journalism  |  21: Journalism Comes of Age  | 
22: New Realities, New Journalism  |   23: 20th Century and Beyond
Section V  |  24: Law and the Journalist  |  25: Ethical Practices  |   26: Present and Future
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