The Content of Reports on U.S. Newspaper Internet Sites

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January 1, 2002, 3:52 pm
By Kevin G. Barnhurst

A paper by Kevin G. Barnhurst, fall 2001 fellow, argues that moving newspaper content onto the Internet has not, in itself, changed what journalists write. In many ways, the who, what, when, where, why, and how of news stories continue to evolve in ways that enhance the professional authority of journalists. Stories are longer and have more explanations of how and why. They emphasize more groups than individuals, and more individuals are officials or outside sources. These results suggest that news continues to move toward the new, long-form journalism found in previous studies. The Internet, however, appears to have had an indirect impact, becoming a symbolic goad to journalists, who fear its market power and have adopted the idea of finding more linkages among the events they cover. In this sense, the impact of the Internet has been salutary. Reporters are writing news stories that include many more events and link those events to others in history. Editors are pushing for more attention to local news, and the locations of news stories since the rise of the Internet have moved dramatically closer to the places where people act as citizens, reversing a century-long trend.

Download the paper (PDF).