Title page for ETD etd-11052006-094055

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Burroughs, Amy
Author's Email Address burroughs@countysun.com
URN etd-11052006-094055
Title Civic Journalism and Community Newspapers: Opportunities for Social and Civic Connections
Degree Master of Mass Communication (M.M.C.)
Department Mass Communication
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dave Kurpius Committee Chair
Kirby Goidel Committee Member
Ralph Izard Committee Member
  • local
  • media
  • news
  • press
Date of Defense 2006-09-08
Availability unrestricted
This study sought to fill in a gap in civic journalism research by considering its implications for community newspapers, those small, locally oriented publications that serve rural and suburban communities throughout the country. In particular, this study posed the argument that such newspapers may have advantages in pursuing civic journalism, and that these approaches may especially benefit newspapers in high-growth communities. This study relied heavily on the language of theorists who describe journalism as a public conversation, the quality of which - its usefulness for readers as citizens and members of a community - the press can either help or hinder.

This study also relied on the assumption that civic journalism suggests a social imperative as well as a civic one: How well newspapers help readers, particularly newcomers, integrate into the community socially may affect how well these residents become invested, participatory citizens. Accordingly, this study sought to test whether new and long-time readers seek different kinds of information from the newspaper and whether a leaning toward civic or social interests corresponds to length of residence.

A telephone survey of subscribers of The Williamson County Sun, a semi-weekly newspaper in Georgetown, Texas, was undertaken to evaluate readers' use and perceptions of the paper as a vehicle for familiarizing newcomers with the community, facilitating community involvement and helping residents navigate changes related to growth. Results did not demonstrate a relationship between length of residence and interest in social-oriented news, although a potential relationship was suggested between interest in certain types of news and reasons for moving to Williamson County. The strongest findings of the study related to readers' perceptions of their relationship with the community newspaper compared to the nearby metro daily, and their evaluations of the newspaper's usefulness in facilitating a public conversation through strong local news coverage.

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