Writer: Sarah Burke
CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
UI faculty members receive grant to study the business of newspapers
IOWA CITY, Iowa--Three University of Iowa faculty members have received
a $100,000 grant to examine the rise of the publicly-traded newspaper corporation
and how such an enterprise balances the tension between journalistic and
corporate values and responsibilities.
The study, entitled the University of Iowa Newspaper Research Project,
is the brainchild of John Soloski, the director of the UI School of Journalism
and Mass Communication, Gil Cranberg, professor of journalism, and Randy
Bezanson professor of law.
The faculty members' research is funded by the Open Society Institute,
a private operating foundation created and funded by international philanthropist
George Soros to foster the development of open societies around the world.
"We will be studying the changes in economics and ownership structure
of the newspaper to see if they are in fact affecting the news journalistic
function," Bezanson said.
In the last 10 to 20 years, the newspaper industry has seen the purchase
family-owned newspapers by large corporations. It is widely assumed
that corporate America, driven by the bottom line, will compromise the
quality and integrity of journalism. Soloski, however, said it is dangerous
to make such assumptions.
"There has always been an interest, a concern of corporate ownership
in journalism. Corporate ownership can by default be bad, but it can also
be very good, just as there can be very bad local owners. We need to be
careful about making causal relationships," he said.
Bezanson, Cranberg and Soloski have no preconceived notions about what
their research will uncover. "We will begin by asking a series of
questions," Soloski said. "For example, in the structuring of
the rewards system, how does quality fit in? Are CEOs rewarded on the
financial performance of the paper or on the quality of the journalism?"
Cranberg said these and other questions will help to determine the project's
direction. "Journalists in recent years have expressed concern that
their interests and the interests of readers are being sacrificed for the
interests of shareholders," said Cranberg. "We plan to interview
a large number of editors and newspaper corporate executives for their
perspective on the question."
This will not be the first time that these three faculty members have
undertaken a major research project together. In the early 1980s they
joined forces on the Iowa Libel Research Project. Their work produced
one book-length work and a series of articles. "We have spent the
better part of the last decade working with one another," Soloski
Bezanson said that like their libel research, this study will probably
yield several articles or possibly a book.
For more information about the UI Newspaper Research Project, contact
335-3482, Bezanson at 335-9171 or Cranberg at 335-3362.