Title page for ETD etd-1019101-205937

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author LaPlante, John M.
Author's Email Address jlaplante@theadvocate.com
URN etd-1019101-205937
Title When Everybody's a Critic: Effects of a Newspaper's Self-Improvement Program
Degree Master of Mass Communication (M.M.C.)
Department Mass Communication
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
H. Denis Wu Committee Chair
John Maxwell Hamilton Committee Member
Laura Lindsay Committee Member
  • newspaper improvement
  • newspaper criticism
  • peer evaluation
  • media self-improvement
  • writing quality
  • media improvement
  • media management
  • staff critiques
  • ombudsmen
  • newspaper writing
Date of Defense 2001-10-15
Availability unrestricted
This case study examined a peer-evaluation program at The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in which employees took turns serving on committees that critiqued each day’s coverage. Their critique reports, containing both negative and positive comments on all elements of the news pages, were distributed to each employee of the news department. The purpose of the study was to examine the content of the critique reports and to determine whether the participants and the editors thought the program improved the newspaper, whether they wanted to continue it and what changes might improve it.

The research methods included a survey of the news staff, a content analysis of the critique reports the staff wrote during a ine-year period, and interviews with the editors. Results showed a majority of the staff mildly favored the program, thought it improved the newspaper and wanted to continue it with some revisions. The staff particularly favored more feedback from the top editors. The content analysis indicated that staffers addressed a broad range of journalistic issues and often offered solutions to the problems they pointed out. The editors generally agreed with the findings and planned to continue the program.

The findings suggested that other newspapers attempting staffwide critique programs should provide specific training in critique techniques, write detailed guidelines for conducting the critiques, focus on problem areas instead of discussing everything in the news pages, require positive as well as negative comments, encourage critics to offer solutions to problems they find, and ensure management has a strong role to use the critiques to correct repeated problems and to encourage good work.

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