Editorial and Opinion

The Dwindling Marketplace of Ideas in Today's News

by Steven M. Hallock


Shows how the nation is losing the robust discussion that many political experts and commentators believe is vital to a functioning democracy.

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November 2006


Pages 224
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/Media, Television, and Radio
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In 1930 there were 288 competitive major newspaper markets in the United States. Today, there are fewer than 30. The diminishing diversity of opinion and voices in newspapers editorials is taking place even as technological advances seemingly provide more sources of (the same) information. As Hallock shows, the concentration of media ownership in fewer and fewer hands allows those individuals and entities an inordinate amount of influence. In this intriguing book, he examines 18 newspaper markets to show us exactly how and where this troubling trend is occurring, what it means for the political landscape, and, ultimately, how it can affect us all.

Newspaper editorials say a lot about the society in which we live. They are not just an indication and reflection of the issues of the day and of which way the political wind is blowing. They are also a part of the political climate that sets the agenda for politicians, and helps them discern which are the hot-button issues and which side people are on. Journalists and politicians enjoy a level of symbiosis in their relationships-they influence each other indirectly. It therefore follows that when fewer ideas, and a narrower range of opinions, are expressed in the nation's newspapers, there is a real danger that our thinking can become more simplistic as well.


  • In this intriguing book, Hallock examines 18 newspaper markets to show us exactly how and where this troubling trend is occurring, what it means for the political landscape, and, ultimately, how it can affect us all.


"The number of competing major newspapers has shrunk from 288 in 1930 to fewer than 30 today, and this makes media watchers suspect that something important is lacking in the marketplace of ideas that protects a free society. Hallock confirms that suspicion here, first establishing a historical framework and then analyzing newspaper editorials past and present to establish their effectiveness. Scrupulously researched and packed with statistical charts and graphs, this book takes to task the bland, homogenized editorial offerings of the present era, demonstrating ways in which the corporate model for news diminishes public debate and dilutes the exchange of ideas in American society. Replete with examples of robust, informed opinion writing that arose from local competition in newspapers of the past, this volume in the Democracy and the News series makes a convincing argument in favor of strong, competing editorial voices that promote vital debate, shape public opinion, and set the political agenda for communities and the nation....[a]dds solid support in favor of independent and competitive media outlets. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."Choice

"Hallock's book examines the content of editorial opinion pages to analyze how this shrinking marketplace affects the diversity of ideas, agendas and opinions available for public consideration."US States News

"Hallock analyzes the content of historical and modern US newspaper editorials in order to investigate how newspaper market competition influences the opinions that appear on the editorial pages. His analysis focuses on the differences and similarities of editorial production in direct competition markets (Boston and Chicago), joint operating agreement markets (Seattle and Denver), and metroplex markets (Dallas/Fort Worth and Pittsburgh/Greensburg), with separate chapters exploring the general contours of each and an additional chapter analyzing editorial treatment of the 2004 presidential campaign for all three markets."Reference & Research Book News


"Steve Hallock's book reminds us that for an audience numbed by endless ads and images, strong editorials make people think. Like the pieces he analyzes, Hallock's book will also make people think."—Ben H. Bagdikian, author, The New Media Monopoly

"Steven M. Hallock has written a devastating account of the shrinking range of opinion and commentary in our commercial news media, especially at the all-important local level. Editorial and Opinion is beautifully written and deserves a wide readership, as our nation struggles to maintain some semblance of a free press."—Robert W. McChesney, author, The Problem of the Media

"Academic journalism and its practice in the trenches often seem to be totally different disciplines. Steve Hallock bridges that gap with a compelling, highly readable argument confirming the importance of competition in newspaper editorials, something we editorial writers intuited, but never had convincingly proven. Now we have proof."—Richard Aregood, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer

"The author has done an excellent job of showing that lack of local newspaper competition leads to lack of diversity in editorials."—Guido H. Stempel III, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, E. W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University, author, The News Media and Politics in America

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