Community Journalism

Out-of-town marketers not as effective as local newspapers

While we uphold a tradition of excellence in news coverage as Grayson County’s oldest newspaper, we are also vested in offering effective marketing and advertising expertise.

As the Internet and social media grow, a new advertising opportunity seems to pop up every day.

Small businesses, on limited budgets, can easily be overwhelmed with a rush of information and (in some cases) get taken by out-of-town companies who don’t have their best interest at heart.

Through it all, community newspapers remain the local marketing experts. We are here to help and are passionate about the services we provide.

One example of an out-of-town outfit over-promising and under-delivering is an outfit called Team Sportz Advertising that made calls on local businesses about this time last year.

They promised a full color Whitesboro Bearcat football schedule poster to be littered on walls all over town.

They convinced five local advertisers to subsidize their efforts at the tune of several hundred dollars per ad.

In return, each advertiser was delivered a crude wall hanger that included their five ads and the 2014 football schedule… no local pictures, nothing personalized about it.

Beyond that, the graphic design work could have been done by any fifth grader and the worst part was the advertisers didn’t get their shipment of posters until four weeks into the football season.

So, more than $1,000 left the community in exchange for 25 posters that no one ever saw because they were too ugly and out-of-date to hang in a store front.

Whitesboro athletic director and then-high school principal Rendell Cole both assured me the school was not contacted beforehand and did not have a hand in the process.

I have seen this before, and it is sad. There are countless companies who all operate on the same model. Some are better than others, but I have seen none as bad as the group mentioned above.

Posters are fun and different. I have done plenty of them in my career and would love to do some here.

In 2013, I entered into a partnership with the New Boston (Texas) Athletic Booster Club that yielded three different posters over the course of a school year and resulted in a $2,500 donation to the Booster Club.

We then implemented the same model at Atlanta, Queen City, Linden and Pittsburg (all Texas).

We were able to give local businesses an attractive new marketing option, keep the revenue local and offer the community a collectible piece of art they could be proud of.

I have made similar offers to each of our local booster clubs with limited interest that has yet to materialize.

The point is, once again, the local newspaper is able to be inventive when it comes to local marketing needs.

An even sadder story occurred this winter when a few downtown businesses were taken by a con artist supposedly selling ads on restaurant menus.

At least in the poster case the company delivered a product. The menu crook did not.

Local business owners said a salesman blew in from the metroplex selling ads for a menu at a local eatery.

He needed to be paid up front. A few folks bought it and never heard from him again.

The restaurant in question had never heard of him either.

Things like this are sad but are more common than you may think.

I am not saying all menu ads are scams. In fact, I will be around talking to some of you soon about a legitimate offer we are partnering with a local restaurant on.
All I am saying is, do your homework. If nothing else, pull out your phone and Google the salesman you are dealing with.

Even easier than that, call me. I don’t care if I’ve ever sold you an ad or ever will. Advice is free and I will give it honestly.

I will never tell you 100 percent of your advertising budget should go in my (or anyone else’s newspaper).

I believe in a balanced approach and will help anyone find that approach.
But the one thing I will not stand for is folks getting scammed; either by a poor product or no product at all.

We are your local marketing experts and we will be honest with you. We are here to serve you and, in turn, help you better serve the community we all call home.
It also seems every Chamber of Commerce has and ad to sell as well. Most of which bypass their local newspapers (which are usually their longest-standing members) and consult out-of-town firms. So once again, money leaves town –doesn’t that contradict the very mission of a Chamber of Commerce?

There are advertising opportunities everywhere and (nowadays) it seems everyone is a marketing expert.

We here at the News-Record really are. It is what we do and we want to help you. We can offer advice with print, radio, TV, mobile, online, whatever advertising you are interested in. Just because we don’t produce it, doesn’t mean we can’t help with your campaign.

The Whitesboro News-Record has been answering local marketing questions since 1877. It is what we do. We keep it local.

Community Journalism Journal Issue 2 Volume 4

Appalachian Culture and Female Newspaper Editors’ Career Paths in West Virginia

Candace R. Nelson, Bob Britten and Jessica Troilo

As women across West Virginia continue to ascend the editorial ranks of the state’s newspapers at an increasing rate, it’s valuable to study how they obtained their positions and what role culture – Appalachian, newsroom, and others – has played in the process. Ten women in high editorial positions at West Virginia newspapers were interviewed, and their experiences were analyzed using grounded theory. A sense of community was the unifying concept, and they identified insider/outsider barriers, community boosts and complications, and reciprocity as the main factors comprising it, with their sex playing a lesser but still notable role.

Newspapers in Appalachia, specifically West Virginia, tend to lag behind the national average in terms of advancement due to shortcomings in technology, manpower and resources (Partridge, Betz, & Lobao, 2012). In terms of employing women in editorial positions at those newspapers, however, West Virginia is on par with the rest of the country with about 30 percent of the total editors being women (American Society of Newspaper Editors, 2012). This often overlooked, understudied group of people can provide a glimpse into the world of Appalachia and a better understanding of its culture, specifically the women of West Virginia. Moreover, this research contributes to the understanding of community journalism as a whole. With the odds being against women rising in the newsroom ranks and a culture known for being humble and refraining from bragging about success, how do women who did, in fact, obtain a powerful position view their own career paths?

Roles are constantly changing within journalism, and women are making more progress, albeit slowly (Enda, 2002). Women are beginning to make more important decisions within the industry, and it has been shown that women present the same news judgment as men (Craft & Wanta, 2004). The media industry has been slow to accept women as leaders, yet women continue to make strides within journalism (Enda, 2002). This increase of women rising to the top of the news industry warrants attention from media professionals, as well as others, to examine how women view themselves, especially within rural areas.

This research will examine how Appalachian women view their careers in journalism in the context of culture. How do women, who reach a position that few women across the United States hold (American Society of Newspaper Editors, 2012), believe they reached that role? What, if anything, do they believe helped lead to that position in terms of outside factors? And what elements of Appalachian culture do they perceive as contributing to that line of thinking concerning career paths?  All of these elements will help contribute to the overall understanding of women in media, specifically within West Virginia, and contribute to literature looking at the culture of West Virginia and community journalism overall. Because gender issues and regional culture play a vital role in community journalism, this research contributes to the understanding of rural journalists in community publications.

Women in Editorial Roles

Journalism in the United States has been dominated by men (Lewis, 2008), though the numbers are slowly changing. Most top editors at major newspapers are men (Reed, 2002); in 2012, slow progress has been made; 37 percent of all reporters and 34 percent of newsroom supervisors were women (American Society of Newspaper Editors, 2012). Major online news sources remain male-dominated, and women are missing from the most senior rank of editor-in-chief or executive editors (Creedon, 2007). Many newsrooms still exhibit patriarchal cultures, which alienate women (Elmore, 2007). Characteristics include low priority for “women’s” issues coverage, leaving women out of decision-making positions, and few accommodations for women with family responsibilities (Ross, 2001). In the past, nearly 40 percent of female journalists perceived sex-based discrimination in their own careers (Walsh-Childers & Chance, 1996). Women lead newsrooms in much the same ways as men and treat both male and female reporters similarly (Craft & Wanta, 2004), yet the proportion of female editors in newsrooms lags severely. The lack of significant change for women in media has become a roadblock (Armstrong, 2014).

The roots of this culture trace to the earliest days of women in journalism. Many male editors of the 1900s believed the woman’s place was in the home, often assigning them to domestic topics such as fashion and food (Lewis, 2008). They were often not allowed to cover crime beats because these were assumed to be too shocking or frightening (Goward, 2006), and women made up a minority of sports reporters. This trend persists to this day (Kian & Hardin, 2009).

When women are consistently put on low-priority beats, their chances for advancing to positions that require oversight of hard news is limited (Beasley & Gibbons, 1993). Studies of news content have showed that women are trivialized when compared to their male counterparts (Armstrong, 2014). Women tend to support family-friendly policies, openness, teamwork and communication (Everbach, 2006) in newsrooms. Women say they encourage participation and share power (Rosener, 1990). But the women in high-level positions tend to show the same type of leadership behavior as men, which some scholars argue shows journalistic values coincide with typically masculine ones (De Bruin, 2000). Thus women who take on traits such as being aggressive, coercive and tough tend to get ahead (Mills, 1988; Toegel & Barsoux, 2012). “It could be the case that only women who exhibit the same sorts of leadership styles and behaviors as male leaders make it through” (Riggio, 2010). The result is a culture that systematically prevents many women from advancing to top editorial positions.

While it has become more common to see women entering journalism, it remains infrequent to see them rise to the top. Published announcements of female reporter hires, for example, are rarely treated as notable, yet when a woman has become the editor-in-chief of a large market newspaper, her sex is often still treated as newsworthy (Enda, 2002). While women are increasingly common in city editor, news editor or section editor positions, men remain more common at the upper managerial level (Lee & Man, 2009).

News media, however, have been slow to report on their own profession’s gender gap, and as female journalists attempt to fit in, they have helped to perpetuate the trend (Goward, 2006). For example, some have felt the need to keep silent about any sexual harassment in the workplace rather than risk harm to how they are perceived in the male-dominated newsroom.  Although the numbers of women reaching editorial positions has not made recent significant gains, however, some women do rise to those top roles (Enda, 2002). This study’s focus on such women in small rural publications is intended to investigate one smaller, less noticed, part of the current landscape.

Small-town Newspapers

Small, local newspapers tend to focus on local news, in contrast to their large counterparts, which tend to cover metro areas and national and international news. Many of the journalistic values famously identified by Herbert Gans (1980) are on clear display in the small-town press, especially ethnocentrism (emphasizing the values of the region) and small-town pastoralism – many newspapers in these areas place an emphasis on the average American (Garfrerick, 2010). When the United States newspaper industry began to suffer significant blows in the 21st century, due in significant part to online competition and to the recession, community newspapers fared better than the larger, city-based dailies (Cross, Bissett & Arrowsmith, 2011).

Research on newspapers in rural areas is sparse (Smith & Wiltse, 2005). Small media organizations without competition have, in the past, been successful in terms of circulation and profit (Downie & Schudson, 2009).  In fact, about 70 percent of smaller daily newspapers continue to be more profitable than their larger cousins (Morton, 2009). Community-based, hyperlocal non-daily papers seem to be doing well in general because they are concerned with their civic responsibilities (Bradshaw, Foust, & Bernt, 2005). In West Virginia, there are currently 81 paid-circulation newspapers with a total market circulation of 656,815; 59 are non-daily newspapers, 12 of which have Sunday papers, and 22 are daily newspapers (West Virginia Press Association, 2012). Of these 81 newspapers, 28 (34%) have a woman in an upper editorial role.

With small staffs and few resources, editors at small papers typically do not have the opportunity to specialize in one particular area (Kirkpatrick, 2001). The community newspaper editor is hands-on in both journalistic practice and in administrative duties such as scheduling and payroll. Editors at community papers also must be involved with that community – attending bake sales, volunteering at baseball games and organizing food drives – engaging the local readers in person in order to best tell the stories no one else can cover (Bunch, 2008). Community newspapers are charged with providing information about local or regional events as well as social issues (Campbell, Smith & Siesmaa, 2011). Editors in these positions must be equipped to tell their audiences a range of stories under pressure because they are the only ones in the position to do so (Kirkpatrick, 2001).

Rural newspapers are characteristic of Appalachian culture. While research on Appalachian culture is limited (Tang, 2007), the region is generally understood be along the Appalachian Mountains, including the entire state of West Virginia and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Appalachian culture varies by definition from person to person (Clark, 2013), but conditions such as a high poverty rate, the collapse of both steel and mining industries, and a cherished cultural heritage are typically cited as its hallmarks (Lohmann, 1990).


The research will examine how top-level female newspaper editors in West Virginia perceive the influence of Appalachian culture on their career. Do they consider Appalachian culture a contributing factor? Because it is less common for women to hold top editorial positions (Lee & Man, 2009), such women are of particular interest. How the participants describe their careers places their attitudes in perspective. It is also relevant to examine whether they view education, experience, regionalism, or other attributes as significant factors.

RQ1: How do top female editors at West Virginia newspapers describe their paths to their current positions?

In addition to being a female editor in a field where they are not prevalent, the participants are also performing the job in a particular location: West Virginia. Some may see editing a newspaper in West Virginia as the pinnacle of success, others as a stepping stone; the position may be seen as earned, as fallen-into, or as something else. It is of note to study what influence West Virginia and Appalachian culture have in how the women view their career paths.

RQ2: How do top female editors at West Virginia newspapers address the role of their region’s culture in shaping their career paths?


This research employed grounded theory, which aims to develop a theory from interview-generated data (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Interviews with top-level female editors in West Virginia were conducted in order to develop a theory about how they describe their paths to their current positions and how Appalachian culture played a role. Grounded theory was selected to allow the female editors freedom to answer and to let those answers inform their own theory. The result of this method was the development of a theory that explains a social process, in this case, how the participants viewed their career paths and how Appalachian culture has played a role in them.


Grounded theory uses two types of sampling: selective and theoretical (Draucker, Martsolf, Ross & Rusk, 2007). Both were used in this research. Selective sampling occurred first, as is consistent with grounded theory (Thompson, 1990). Participants who are able to share experiences relating to the topic (i.e., female editors who work in West Virginia) were identified and contacted. Next came theoretical sampling, which is the process of selecting individuals who vary within the intended topic so as to further refine the emerging theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).  This study sought interviews both from individuals who were originally natives of West Virginia as well as those who were not. Although we could have sampled women who occupied various levels of editorial responsibility, previous researchers have found that it is fairly common for women to reach lower-level editorial positions (e.g., Lee & Man, 2009), so this project focused on understanding the experiences of top female editors (a much smaller group).


Participants were drawn from current or former female editors at West Virginia newspapers in top decision-making roles, all of them either editor-in-chief or managing editor. Participants remained anonymous to help ensure honest, accurate data, as well as to focus on the patterns of behavior, rather than individual people. Ten participants were interviewed in all. Although this number may seem low, at the time of the study there were 23 women in West Virginia in such positions; as such the sample is 43% of the population, a healthy response rate. All participants were white and between the ages of 30 and 60. Although the lack of diversity may seem like a major limitation, white individuals make up more than 90% of the population in West Virginia (US Census, 2010).


A series of open-ended interviews were conducted with each participant. Each lasted about an hour, and all were recorded, transcribed, and coded. Consistent with grounded theory methods, the constant comparative method of data collection and analysis was used (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Constant comparative analysis is the process of collecting data and analyzing it simultaneously, as opposed to collecting all of the data and then analyzing it. As such, coding began after the first interview and guided interview questions in later interviews so that coding categories could be tested and the developing theory could be more fully identified.

Data analysis was performed on three different levels: open, axial, and selective. Open coding began after the first interview in order to help guide further data collection. At this stage, each sentence was coded. We looked for patterns to emerge and began to understand how participants’ experiences compared. Codes, such as hardworking and women’s issues (problems related to being a woman), emerged at this stage. Axial coding began after open coding. After the data was taken apart in open coding, axial coding involved reassembling the data according to the connections discovered between categories. For example, the insider/outsider category was created, which combined a number of smaller codes (i.e., barriers and integration). Selective coding was the final step in the data analysis. The purpose is to identify a main category that can explain the connections to each of the previously identified categories and codes. This main or primary category is the concept that unifies the study and is critical in theory creation.


This research revealed an interaction between two primary concepts: community and Appalachia. The first, community, is the keystone concept of how editors talk about themselves; Appalachia is related but more rooted in a specific sense of place. In the overlap of community and Appalachia, three supporting place characteristics emerged: boosts, challenges, and reciprocity. In addition, these female West Virginia editors saw their efforts to function as part of a community as strongly influenced by an insider/outsider effect that determined admission to place. This effect was described in terms of three areas: barriers, integration, and womanness.

Community and Appalachia

These two concepts worked in tandem: community as the broader idea, Appalachia as the sense of place specific to the region. The concept of community was not an exclusive one. Multiple communities existed for a given person, an observation that was particularly notable in discussion of the insider/outsider effect. The communities the editors described were defined by two main ideas: place functions and admission to place. Each is described below, but first, some discussion of Appalachia is necessary to understand the place in which these women function.

The women perceived Appalachia as inherently community-driven. When asked how they defined the region, they often did so in terms of the types of people (“friendly,” “willing to help”), the terrain (hills, natural) and debunking the stereotypes (uneducated, poor). Many believed that community was innately part of Appalachia, rather than acting as a separate concept. A recurring theme was that community exists in individuals, and discussions of Appalachia frequently shared this description. Community is what Appalachia does: “When I think of the [Appalachian] people, I think of people that are friendly, that will go out of their way to help certainly a neighbor in need or maybe even a stranger they’ve never met before” (Editor 2). According to this woman, the fact that West Virginians have had to rely on each other, in a state that has notoriously lacked technological advances to make communication with outsiders easier, has made community essential to the lives of West Virginians.

The other side of this, however, is that members of the Appalachian community may not be expected to ask for that relied-upon help. Editor 3, a West Virginia native, described her upbringing as an example of the traditions and behaviors that define Appalachia: “I grew up in a family that was very hardworking; a family of coal-miners. My mother was traditional … five kids, so she worked from sun up to sun down. That’s how you grew up. You didn’t call in sick for no reason; you didn’t take a day off.” In this community, work and endurance are expected; support is characteristic yet never requested. At the heart of the Appalachian community are three place functions: community boost, community complications, and reciprocity.

Community boost

This function describes the support one receives as part of the Appalachian community. Several of the editors described how their existing community roles helped them obtain their positions. Editor 5 is not from West Virginia, but “the fact that I had worked for a community newspaper in a metropolitan area [helped me get the job]. The [current newspaper and former newspaper] are very, very similar in their readership.” Demonstrating a solid place in her previous community allowed her editors to see that she was community-driven. When it came to advancing to an editorial position, she credited her community with helping: “People in the community I became associated with liked me and told my boss they liked me.”

This community boost can even overpower institutional decisions. In Editor 7’s case, when new management decided that she might not be the best person for the job, her community stood up for her. The people with whom she interacted on a daily basis weren’t the ones making the hiring decision, but because she had made such an impact on the community, they rallied to support her:

“This may sound like bragging but I know there were several people in the Community who told them – because I heard them with my own ears – ‘I don’t understand why you don’t make her editor … she knows how to do the job; she’s done it before.’ There were a few people who went to bat for me. That’s a nice thing about small towns.”

When these editors had a close connection with their communities, the communities vouched for them and encouraged their hiring or promotion.

Community complications

Community connections do not only serve as assets; these relationships and their expectations can create professional problems as well. One editor described the difficulty in balancing friendliness with objective journalism:

“They might think they deserve special treatment. Let something slide – ‘Don’t put me in the court news, I’m so and so.’ Well sorry. If I was in the court news, it would be in there. You can’t do that. I wrote my own traffic report one time about how I got into an accident [laughs].”

Another such complication is the perceived need to demonstrate authenticity. Despite her credentials as a lifelong resident, Editor 1 felt a need to make explicit her role as a local:

“When I was first editor of [the newspaper], the first week I wrote a column introducing myself. I talked about three steps to Kevin Bacon – three degrees of separation. … I wrote a column about that. Here’s who I am. Here is who my parents are, my siblings, any organizations. Now I challenge you to see how you can get connected to me in three steps. It was an instant way that [readers] could say ‘that’s so-and so’s sister in law, she can’t be that bad.’ ”

Even though she felt the need to demonstrate her role in the community explicitly, Editor 1 believed her relationships with the people in her community helped place her in a better position, more able to secure interviews and connect with people. It is true that any editor will benefit from such connections, but the implication of this and other examples is that in West Virginia, those who are not born into their connections may never truly earn them.

Regional longevity is also seen as valued in West Virginia. Editor 3 identified time as a factor in strengthening connections: “Three of our reporters have been here 20 years or more. People trust us; people talk to us.” That established role, she said, helped her achieve a potentially sensitive goal:

“We did a piece on coal towns. Did not have the best press from the outside previously. … We decided to focus one of our pride sections on that. A lot of older miners have passed on. We have found that people loved those days. So many told them had I not had family who grew up as coal miners … had I not understood it, they would not have been interviewed. They did not trust the media to portray it accurately. It does give the foot in the door sometimes. You have to maintain that trust.”

This example is instructive because, according to the editor, it is not her time spent as a local journalist that matters so much as her time as a resident. Once again, the revelation is not merely the common knowledge that a journalist’s time in a community will lead to stronger connections; it is her time spent there as a person, and even her family’s time, that determines her level of access. The implication is that in West Virginia, the community is treated as an entity that can reward or punish, and the credentials needed to appease it may transcend even one’s own lifetime.


Many of the women editors noted that while community is vital to the newspaper, the newspaper is also an important part of the community. The two work in conjunction. In terms of reciprocity, the newspaper gave the community as much as, if not more than, the community gave the newspaper.

Reciprocity may exist at the group and individual level. Editor 10 described a series of fundraisers in which her newspaper helped raise tens of thousands of dollars in a weekend. The newspaper helps sponsor a number of events that give back to the community, enriching its position and standing. As for smaller interactions, Editor 7 said it is typical for community members to stop into the newsroom, sometimes with news tips but other times just to chat (or complain). It’s not always conducive to work, but she described it as a necessary part of the newspaper’s role in the community:

“We have a couple people who come in here to just chit chat. Sometimes, I’m sitting here looking at my watch thinking ‘man I have a lot to do.’ That’s all part of it. The open door policy is very important.”

Editor 7 stated that the smaller newspapers work hard to get the community the news it needs and wants:

“Community newspapers must do everything – can only get community news here. With the small town papers, the readers get something they can’t get anywhere else. And that’s reliable community news. Whether it’s the trial of the person or this business that you, or the gentleman up the road who grew a tomato that looks like a duck, it’s stuff that you can’t get on CNN.”

Whether it is informational or financial, the editors see the newspaper-community relationship as important. The newspaper aims to be part of the community and deliver necessary information, and the people in the community rely on the newspaper not only for information but for helping with local events. The relationship becomes a two-way street in which both are important to their respective communities. The sense of place within those communities, however, comes with certain guidelines for admission, and this is the realm of the insider/outsider effect.

Insider/Outsider Effect

Most of the editors presented an insider/outsider theme. In the geographic sense, insiders tended to be from West Virginia or the area they specifically cover. Outsiders were not and thus were typically not fully accepted into a community. If one is from West Virginia, the view was that one is accepted more readily by natives. Editors who are not from West Virginia felt the effects of being an outsider. This makes a community operational – being inclusive and exclusive – and helps define who is and who is not Appalachian. In addition to West Virginian status, the concept also includes those with differing values or (less-common) sex.


Those who believed they were perceived as not West Virginian (even if they were) were often skeptical of that perception ever changing. Editor 5 said so frankly: “I will never be part of this community. I will always be an outsider. I haven’t been from around here.” She’s also seen her experiences mirrored in others.

“I have a friend who has since moved away. She’s lived here for a while. We kept trying to convince her to run for public office. She would say, ‘You know just as well as I do, just because I wasn’t born here, I don’t have a snowball’s chance.’ And she’s right.”

Editor 5 said she would never consider running for office for this same reason: “People respect me and like me, and respect what I do, but I’m not from around here. I’m not even from West Virginia.”

Geographic outsiders talked about what they perceived as the rules for being seen as part of the community. One of these is time-based: how long one has been part of the community. Editor 5, a non-native, said she’d once heard it said that a family needed to live in West Virginia for three generations to be accepted. “If I was from [a city in West Virginia] or some place like that, that would be OK. I would only have to be here for two generations [laughs].” Even living in some part of the state may have been beneficial to her to break down that insider/outsider theme that so many non-West Virginians find themselves experiencing. Editor 9, another non-native, also referred to a time-based standard, but she believed her time spent in the state may qualify her to be more West Virginian.

“I’ve been here for 20 years. I’m accepted, I think. And I think because we came in the way we did where we were connected to a family that had been here too, it helped us. But there definitely is a stigma against transplants.”

In essence, being from West Virginia – even if it is not the part in which the editor is working – is better than not being from West Virginia at all.


As the editors attempted to assimilate into their chosen communities, they tended to internalize what the community values in order to be in touch with its needs. Editor 6 described the successful transition of another (male) outsider editor at her former newspaper: “He came from a rural area, similar to West Virginia … but [had a] willingness to learn about West Virginia.” Being accepted by the community helps one to become an “insider,” and a visible desire to become an “insider” is necessary. Some editors noted that the community changed their own values as they adapted to what it wanted and needed from its local newspaper. Part of adapting to a new place is learning to value what the community values:

“[Working at this newspaper] made me think of news in a different way – what’s important to these people? They like their community parades, events, they love their town … [I] began to value what they value. The community changed my own values. I just realized I had to start looking at news differently; it was no longer about what seems the most – not newsworthy – everything in that town is newsworthy to those people – it was about what people cared about.” (Editor 6)

When editors become part of the community, they often remain because they enjoy that acceptance and those community values. Editor 10 was interested in staying in her community because after she came to the area and got involved, and she said she couldn’t see herself anywhere else. Editor 7 kept her office door open so that members of the community could stop in. Her genuine listening and care about her community’s thoughts encouraged more visits from the community, which led to trust and acceptance. “Once they saw that I cared about what they were saying, it changed some attitudes,” she said. “I want to know what they care about because that’s what I care about.”

By these accounts, visible presence and desire are necessary ingredients of community integration. It was important for them to become part of their communities and begin to value what those communities valued. In order to truly become part of the community, they needed to embody those traits that were valued; to become part of the community, they had to become the community.


A final component of the insider/outsider concept is one distinct to these female editors: Being a woman in a traditionally male role. While the women did not actively frame their gender group as a community, they provided examples that showed its influence on their path. They tended to describe themselves as outsiders attempting to seek entry into a male community, which in and of itself shows the women as part of their own outsider community.

The women provided multiple examples where they believed they were treated differently (and less respectfully) by readers, colleagues, and superiors for being women. Editor 3 recounted an incident where a reader did not believe a woman had the final say at the newspaper:

“In my first year, I had a gentleman up here who was old-school, you know, who wanted to publish a religious announcement and wanted to publish it as a letter to the editor. I’m trying to tell him he has to write something if he wants it to be a letter to the editor. Finally, he says, ‘Why can’t I talk to the man?’ I just looked at him and said, ‘You are talking to the man.’”

Editor 7 had a more severe incident where she believes she essentially lost her job because she was a woman when a new boss came to town and didn’t see women as managerial leaders. Because Editor 7’s new boss did not even have a conversation with her before announcing to a male coworker that she would no longer have her job, Editor 7 reasoned that he was uncomfortable with having a woman in that role. He complimented the accolades and coverage the newspaper had been involved with, but in Editor 7’s eyes, noticing that a woman was in charge tainted his vision for the newspaper. Many of the women described similar accounts in which they felt they were being treated differently; in nearly all cases, they noted it was never explicitly stated that the treatment was due to the fact that they were women.

Outsiders need proof – be it time worked at the publication, being born in the right state, or respect from readers and coworkers – to cross barriers and become insiders. Female editors tended to think they needed an extra level of proof beyond those every West Virginia journalist has to endure. Many of the editors read between the lines to describe the sex-related issues they faced from coworkers. “I do think we do have some difficulties, especially in the workforce,” Editor 8 said. “In my experience, I have dealt with some [coworkers] that are hard to get along with and that don’t want to help. I don’t know if it is because I am a woman, but it seems that way sometimes.”

While some of the women were reluctant to address their sex in terms of their career, their responses show it has played a role in their experiences as editors. It seems as though the women have an unstated insecurity about their sex in a male-dominated work environment, one based on a presence they may not have concrete evidence of, yet perceive nonetheless. This sense is supported by its recurrence across interviews, but the non-explicit nature of the reported examples also suggests that many editors have developed a sense for such interactions. As much as their sex may affect some coworkers, it seems as though it also inhibits the editors themselves.


This study focused on the role of Appalachian culture in the career paths of top female editors in West Virginia. A main expectation, based on the traditionally male culture of American newsrooms and the low proportion of women in top positions, was that women would describe an outsider perspective based significantly on their sex. The insider/outsider effect was indeed described as significant, yet the role of sex played a distant second to that of membership in the Appalachian community. The sense of community they described was found in functions of community boosts, complications, and reciprocity. It was tempered by their various insider and outsider statuses, drawing from barriers, integration, and womanness. The result is a balance of places and roles the editors constantly returned to in their descriptions. Awareness of place and one’s admission to place defines the editors’ roles in their communities.

Working in an Appalachian Community

The women generally believed that living in a community that relies heavily on interpersonal relationships has benefited their careers. Although West Virginia, and much of Appalachia, tends to lag behind the national average in technological advancement (Partridge, Betz, & Lobao, 2012), the editors frequently characterized that lag as contributing to the sense of community found in Appalachia, bringing about a sense of closeness, dependence, and a need to work together. Essentially, the lack of assets was presented as an asset. Further, editors at smaller newspapers must be equipped to tell a range of stories on the local level because they are the only ones capable of doing so (Kirkpatrick, 2001). Editor 2 said that her small staff has to be well-versed in writing, social media, and advertising, and Editor 3 explained that with a handful of staff, it is necessary for each writer to produce as many as seven stories per day to fill the newspaper. Metropolitan newspapers do not take on community news, so the community relies on the newspaper as much as the newspaper relies on the community.

The emphasis on the average American is typical of community newspapers (Garfrerick, 2010), and one of Gans’ (1979) news values. This may not seem distinctive to Appalachia, but several editors described an emphasis on the average and regional that superseded other criteria of newsworthiness: Editor 6, for example, noted that zoning stories were so important in her community that they came before events that some would consider more important, such as a former president coming to town. Many of the editors placed themselves in that “average American” role as well, noting how their place in the community – whether regional, within the newspaper, or with other organizations – helped lead to their current positions. Previous research has suggested female editors need to be involved with the community, and although these women were not hosting bake sales, they attended community events and helped raise money to give back to their community. Regular demonstrations of averageness and belonging seem a necessary part of the women’s careers.

Weekly papers in much of Appalachia tend to serve less affluent and less educated communities (Cross, Bissett & Arrowsmith, 2011), characteristics that may be involved in the hesitancy to accept outsiders, both geographically and those who may be more affluent or educated than the typical community member. Their protection of what and whom they know helps determine admission into individual communities. The female editors have internalized many of the qualities necessary to bridge that insider-outsider gap and become part of their community. Community newspapers have to provide information on local and regional events as well as social issues and more (Campbell, Smith & Siesmaa, 2011). In order to be one with the community, the editors have internalized those values, often to the extent that whatever is important to the community becomes personally interesting to many of the editors.

Although many of the editors were hesitant to describe gender-related issues they experienced ascending the editorial ranks, the examples they did give illustrated issues Elmore (2007) discussed: when women serve in editorial roles, it is sometimes at the cost of respect in the newsroom. Editor 5, for example noted how new management had planned to dismiss her before even having a conversation with her, a decision she suspected was due to her sex (the new manager didn’t know much about her, the newspaper had been doing well, and her second-in-command, a man, assumed the position immediately). Ross (2001) found most newsrooms still tend to be patriarchal, with some women still perceiving sex-based bias against them, and Walsh-Childers and Chance (1996) found women were often passed over for promotions in favor of men who were equally or less qualified, relegating qualified female editors to lower-level positions. The women in this study were rarely definite in claiming substandard treatment due to their sex, but considering culture described in the literature, it is not difficult to understand why they might perceive discrimination.


The following model describes the functions of and effects on community in Appalachian culture. Models are a necessary product of Grounded Theory and provide the method with explanatory power (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Community’s overarching concept of a relationship among a group of people is embodied in two main concepts: place (Appalachia) functions and admission to place (the insider/outsider effect).

As part of Appalachia, the women made choices that influenced their role within the community. Based on their experiences, a strongly integrated community role might be expected to produce both greater assets (“community boost”) and greater drawbacks (“community complications”). The give-and-take relationship of newspaper and community (“reciprocity”) attempts to balance these two functions. Where the above concepts describe what a community is and does, the insider/outsider effect deals with individuals: Who is and is not part of that community, how one can become a part, and what stands in one’s way.

Through a “route to citizenship” of Appalachia, the model (Figure 1) illustrates the interaction of specific community variables. The women are a particular group that stands at the intersection of community and Appalachia. From this intersection flow the functions of community boost and community complications; the two are linked through the reciprocity function. The insider/outsider effect acts upon the women, who in addition to regional outsider factors, must deal with the additional outsider status of being a woman in top editorial roles traditionally filled by men. These and other barriers stand on the integration arrow, the “road to citizenship” for a given community, and are enforced by the insiders of that community. They may be surmounted via bonds, relationships, and longevity. Integration, in turn, determines the boosts and complications they may experience. The relationship is therefore a circular one: Once one becomes an insider, one becomes a part of Appalachia with a role and an expected reciprocity.


This particular model is distinct to Appalachia because it specifically characterizes concepts related to this particular region by way of admission standards related to the culture. For example, specific barriers to an Appalachian community include not originating in the specific area in which one works; the same may not be true (or as significant) elsewhere. With adjustments based on similar interviews, however, the model could be expanded to other groups.

The model can explain community’s vital part in rural journalism. With community being the central focal point, areas of place and admission help explain its standards. The model can break down these factors’ roles in the community newsroom, and whether they are overall beneficial or detrimental. The reciprocal relationship requires one to understand a place to cross the insider/outsider barrier at which point one becomes a part of that place with new roles and responsibilities.


Although the women in this study vary by their involvement in various communities, they all share that certain relationships have played a role in both the Appalachian culture as well as their career paths as editors in West Virginia. The relationships the women have encountered within the culture have helped them achieve their current positions. The strong ties of community within Appalachia helped shape their values and inclusion within the culture.

Some limitations were involved in this research. Sex did not seem to enter into the equation often, whether because it was not relevant or because of a reluctance to speak on the subject. Other limitations are the focus on small, community newspapers: Women working near larger West Virginia cities may have significantly different experiences. The results are not intended to be generalized to West Virginia or Appalachia, but they do describe the experiences of the women who work there and attempt to understand them as a group. With the infrequent references to the role of sex, future work might compare interviews with men in the state to give a more comprehensive view of the Appalachian journalist’s experience. Further study of why women may choose not to speak about their sex when viewing their career paths may be of interest to future research, which might also consider whether men choose to speak about their sex when describing their career paths. Further research might also be replicated with other underrepresented women in journalism.

The model is a blueprint for how relationships function in community journalism. It is beneficial to see how any community – physical, interest or relationship – functions and accepts members. It can be applied to various situations: workplace environments, interest groups, family dynamics and more. Any community that has relationship inner-workings can look to the model to apply individual characteristics and see how the community functions and accepts new members.

Discovering how female editors in Appalachia see themselves has been unexplored territory. In general, this segment of the population is not studied as often as others, perhaps in part due to that insider/outsider effect. Becoming aware of what role the women see their culture playing in their career paths can help explain both Appalachia and the distinctive strengths and challenges of community journalism.


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About the Authors

Candace R. Nelson is a graduate student at the Reed College of Media, West Virginia University.

Dr. Bob Britten is an assistant professor at the Reed College of Media, West Virginia University.

Dr. Jessica Troilo is an assistant professor of child development and family studies in the Department of Technology, Learning, and Culture at West Virginia University.



Community Journalism Journal Issue 2 Volume 4

Follow the leader: How leadership can affect the future of community journalism

Patrick Ferrucci

This ethnographic study examines the effect leadership can have on newsroom culture and, ultimately, how news is produced. Lowery and Gade (2011) argued that the future of community journalism will happen online, and Kaye and Quinn (2010) noted that the Internet allows for different funding models of journalism. Together, this means online community journalism will take many different forms over the next decade. This study examines one popular form of community journalism: the digitally native news nonprofit. The study illustrates that when a journalist, and not a business executive or executives, controls the entire news operation, the community journalism organization focuses on quality journalism more than profits.

The journalism industry and community journalism specifically currently face a time of change, with comprehensive transformations affecting how news is produced and what it looks like when consumed (Lowrey & Gade, 2011). These changes have made scholarly arguments concerning the future of journalism more contested and relevant than ever before (Christians, Glasser, McQuail, Nordenstreng, & White, 2009). Economics and technology have allowed for more journalistic competition and contributed to numerous new market models for news production (Bruns, 2005; Kaye & Quinn, 2010).

As the news industry continues to change, more work that examines how news is produced at these new models of journalism is vitally needed (Singer, 2008). Kaye and Quinn (2010) argued that the Internet allows for more community journalism, as the rise in the availability of the Web makes it easier for journalists to reach people and far cheaper for journalists to start their own online-only publications.

While corporations traditionally own most legacy media outlets including newspapers and television stations, the Internet makes it far easier for anybody to own a journalistic publication, providing more opportunities for journalists to simply start their own news organization (Lowrey & Gade, 2011). This can become a reality for community journalists, both reporters and editors, once they find an appropriate funding model (Kaye & Quinn, 2010). One such community journalism funding model gaining in popularity is the digitally native news nonprofit (Nee, 2013), a Web-only model funded through a combination of grants and donations.

This study examines one such digitally native news nonprofit. It uses ethnography to ask the question of how leadership affects organizational culture and, ultimately, how a community journalism organization produces news. As more and more community journalism sites join the news ecology, it is becoming more obvious that the future of community journalism lies online (Paterson & Domingo, 2008). In the decade ahead, various models with different cultures and values will appear online (Kaye & Quinn, 2010). Understanding how leadership affects the culture of an organization is vital to understanding how an organization will produce news.

Ethnography is the study of culture. The method originated in the field of anthropology, and researchers have employed it to study different cultures of people, usually from foreign lands (Bird, 2009). Singer (2008) argued that we could not truly understand a news organization without ethnography. This study examines the culture one such news organization, to understand how leadership affects its organizational culture.


News Organizations

Weeks and Galunic (2003) wrote that the goal of all organizations revolves around memes, which are units that carry cultural symbols, ideas and practices. They argued that organizations preserve, replicate and distribute cultural meanings.  Morgan (2006) asserted that organizations rely on a series or set of rules and norms that provide members with a formal structure. Leaders transfer these implicit and explicit rules from other organizations, but, over time, each organization will acquire its own set of practices (Schein, 2006). The main reason organizations develop this structure is to maximize their ability for economic gain (Argyris, 2004).

The commercialization of the press in the United States began during the middle part of the 19thcentury (Baldasty, 1992). Private citizens and families began purchasing newspapers as for-profit enterprises throughout this moment in time. This began a shift away from political party-owned news organizations and toward the type of market models still prevalent today (Baldasty, 1992). Before this period, the main goal of a news organization revolved around spreading a particular ideology; this shift resulted in a strong focus toward profit (Bagdikian, 2004). Many owners of news organizations began treating newspapers as primarily a business (Baldasty, 1992).

News organizations focused equally on producing news and generating profits through advertising and circulation (Baker, 1994). In these early days of the commercial press, a distinct line evolved between the newsgathering and financial sides of the organization. For example, the work of the people in advertising became completely separate from the work of reporters and editors (Schudson, 2003). As time went on, a struggle between the business and editorial sides of newspapers arose, as ownership and management attempted to influence editorial independence. Baldasty (1992) wrote that “circulation managers defined a successful newspapers as one with high circulation and prompt delivery, and they saw the editor as a major obstacle to those goals” (p. 82). In the early-to-mid portion of the 20th century, news organizations began explicitly discussing the “wall of separation” between the newsgathering and financial sides of the organization; it became routine to disconnect these parts of the organization to minimize influence (McManus, 1994).

This does not mean the wall eviscerates influence; in fact, studies have found that the wall is becoming more and more porous (Pompilio, 2009). An economic downturn over the last two decades forced news organizations to adopt new strategies to sell more products and attract more readers and viewers (Kaye & Quinn, 2010). Weaver, Beam, Brownlee, Voakes, and Wilhoit (2007) found that journalists believe economics continue softening the wall of separation. Another survey found journalists now view business pressures as the principal threat to journalism (Journalism, 2008).  And these business pressures are typically transferred to journalists through leadership, specifically leaders not normally involved in news decisions but rather business ones (Kaye & Quinn, 2010). For the vast majority of the 20th century and beyond, media organizations featured similar hierarchal models, with news department that answered to a business side. This subsequently set up a struggle between news and business interests (McManus, 1994). Currently, though, journalism faces its biggest paradigm shift since the introduction of the printing press (McChesney & Nichols, 2010), and each different publishing model that appears brings with it some new or altered norms and goals. These norms and goals make up the culture of the organization (Pavlik, 2013).

Organizational Culture

Schein defined organizational culture as a configuration of shared basic assumptions

learned by a group as it solved problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that worked well enough to be considered valid, and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems (2006, p. 17).

Leadership plays a large role in shaping organizational culture. Leaders provide the vision and communicate these ideas through conversations, resource allocation, apportionment of power, and instatement of organizational structures and processes (Schein, 2006). A detached or disengaged leader can severely and negatively affect an organization’s culture (Kets De Vries, 2001). No matter the type of organization, a leader significantly impacts the day-to-day operations (Keyton, 2005). The leader, even if he or she is not hands on, originally sets the organizational culture, and this can influence the organization long after the leader departs (Kunda, 2006). In a news organization, there are multiple departments and leaders (McManus, 1994). The editor may control the news department, but in the vast majority of news organizations, the editor must report to a leader who prioritizes the business interests of the organization (Gans, 2004). This means that usually the ultimate leadership of a news organization does not come from a journalist (Barnouw, 1997). In many of the new community news websites that have begun in recent years, though, the opposite is true: Journalists started and control these sites, which could have a significant effect on organizational culture.

Studies of newsrooms have examined the impact of leadership. One classic media sociology study combined both observation and interviews (Paterson & Domingo, 2008). Tuchman (1978), Breed (1955) and Gans (1979) conducted three of the most cited and influential examinations of newsrooms. The studies found that organization culture directly influences how a newsroom operates, and leadership significantly affects the culture. Gans (1979) found that newsroom leaders primarily put into place the wishes of corporate leaders. This means that while regular journalists may not see or communicate with the corporation that owns their organization, their routines and roles are still greatly impacted by corporate leaders. Ryfe (2009) studied a newsroom undergoing a change in leadership. He found that when a newspaper brought in a new newsroom leader, that editor imparted new rules and routines that greatly impacted news production. Corporate executives hired this leader specifically to impart these changes. This finding is consistent with other studies that illuminated how news values shifted in the digital age due to a change in what leadership desired (Schultz, 2007), and how business interests can affect who leads a newsroom and how that leader acts (Velthuis, 2006). Thus, how leadership is structured not only affects how journalists perform their jobs, but also the type of content they produce. To understand organizational culture and leadership, we must study culture.

Theory of culture

Schein (2006), when defining and outlining his theory of culture, argued that elements shape an organization’s culture on three distinct levels: artifactual, the espoused values, and the basic underlying assumptions. He wrote that to understand the culture of an organization and the way that one operates, a researcher must understand cultural influences from all three levels. He defines culture as a combination of the values, visions, norms, behaviors, symbols and systems that the organizational members share and proselytize. These cultural elements provide the least pliable characteristics of an organization, and members share and spread them implicitly and explicitly.

When joining an organization, members undertake a conscious and subconscious group learning process that slowly but effectively indoctrinates them to the organization’s culture; when a new member fails to embrace culture, they typically leave the organization willingly or unwillingly (Gabriel, 1999). When an organization begins, leadership extensively shapes culture; leaders remain the largest influence on organizational culture (Schein, 2006). To understand organizational culture, a researcher must understand leadership (Kets De Vries, 2001). When a researcher embeds inside an organization and studies the culture and the leadership within at all three levels, the researcher can understand the organization’s culture. Therefore, the following research question will be examined:

RQ: How does leadership contribute to the organizational culture of the organization studied?


Anthropologists created ethnography as a manner to study different cultures (Bird, 2009). Over time, more academic fields including communication have utilized ethnography. Singer (2008) wrote that to understand the organization’s culture is to understand the organization. Spradley (1979) posited that ethnography is the art of describing a culture, and we must first understand how the culture operates before we can begin to ask questions. Researchers must immerse themselves in that culture and get as close as possible to understanding the language used. The language is not necessarily foreign to the researcher, but each culture has its own language. To perform ethnography, the researcher can utilize multiple methods (Van Maanen, 1988). This study utilizes both observation and long-form, in-depth interviews.


Before a researcher can ask informed questions of the people studied, the researcher must fully understand what he or she observed (Spradley, 1979). The three keys to any in-depth qualitative study are describing, understanding and explaining (Hamel, Dufour, & Fortin, 1993). Spradley (1979) argued that the goal of observation is to grasp the observeds’ point of view and to realize their vision of the world.

In-depth Interviews

An interview is valuable because of the “wealth of detail that it provides” (Wimmer & Dominick, 2006, p. 139). Spradley (1979) wrote that when conducting ethnographic interviews, researchers must find informants, not subjects or participants. The people are informants because they teach the researcher. Without the informant, it would be impossible to learn. Spradley (1979) wrote that to simply treat the people being studied as subjects means the researcher will attach his or her own meanings to what is happening.

Studying An Organization

This study utilizes the theoretical model set forth by Schein (2006) concerning how to study organizational culture. For Schein, culture is many things, but generally culture is the values, visions, norms, symbols, systems and behaviors the people of an organization share. Culture takes the form of the “elements of a group or organization that are most stable and least malleable” and the “result of a complex group learning process that is only partially influenced by leader behavior” (p. 5). When examining culture as he defines it, Schein distinguishes between three distinct levels of culture, or levels of analysis a researcher must observe when analyzing an organization: artifacts, espoused values and basic underlying assumptions.

Artifacts are the surface level characteristics that one can observe easily. These can include observable things such as what we see, hear and feel. They can also include products that an organization makes or owns, technology it uses, the logo of a place, clothing worn by employees, the layout of the office, etc. A researcher must enter an organization with an open mind and not interpret data at the artifactual level until more information is gathered. Implicit in this argument is that a researcher must gather data at other levels of analysis before giving meaning to data at the artifact level.

Espoused values are the center of the second level of culture and analysis. The organization verbalizes or publishes espoused values; they could, for example, be part of a mission statement. While the organization makes espoused values public internally and/or externally, the organization does not necessarily follow these values in practice. Espoused values are ideas, goals and values that an organization acknowledges. These can be gleaned from documents such as original mission statements.

The final level of culture and analysis are basic underlying assumptions. These are unconscious beliefs shared by members of the organization. These evolve, for example, when a problem repeats itself numerous times and organizational members then solve it with the same solution. In theory, basic underlying assumptions are what prompt members of the organization to behave in the ways they do. Organizational members do not espouse these assumptions. Organizational members do not necessarily verbalize or publish basic underlying assumptions, but rather members share and act on these types of beliefs.

Schein argued that while observing all levels of culture, a researcher must note how the organization distributes power in the workplace. This is accomplished by not only identifying the titles of employees, but also through identifying decision makers who participate in those conversations. Leaders typically grant types of power to others, and finding those others and observing how that power is applied is vital to understanding how culture manifests itself. To see culture, researchers must identify how leaders allocate authority. The distribution of power heavily influences how members of an organization behave (Gabriel, 1999). People in power also develop rules and regulations. These rules are both espoused and implicit. Understanding how members of an organization deal with these rules, communicate with authority and with peers can tell a researcher quite a bit (Kunda, 2006).

The Case

A study of one particular case is “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident” (Yin, 2008, p. 26). This study examines an anonymous news organization, which this study will call The Gazette, a digitally native news nonprofit in the United States. A group of experienced journalists launched the Gazette in the mid 2000s. The digital news organization includes 15 paid, full-time employees.

The Gazette boasts a donor model. In 2010, the organization reported $2.22 million in revenue, while its expenses totaled only $1.29 million. The organization’s revenue comes from a mix of foundation grants, individual donations and fundraising events. In 2010, 59% of revenue came from donations, 35% from grants and 6% from fundraising events. More than 53% of the Gazette’s expenses come from editorial costs. The rest of the news outlet’s expenses come from marketing and development (24%), general administration costs (19%) and information technology costs (4%).

I spent a total of 43 days and 367.5 hours in the field. My time at the Gazette began on Jan. 18, 2013, and ended April 9, 2013. Weiss (1994) wrote that when information acquired becomes redundant and begins to not add to conclusions, fieldwork should conclude. By the beginning of April, the information I gathered started becoming redundant. I stayed in the field an extra week to corroborate the correctness of this determination.

Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw (1995) identified three stages of field note analysis. The first stage finds the researcher closely reading through the field notes and then writing initial comments in the margins. This stage is called writing memos. The second stage involves what Emerson et al. (1995) call open coding. To complete this stage, the researcher must do a line-by-line reading of the field notes and attempt to identify themes and patterns. Focused coding is the third and final stage of analysis, and this occurs when the researcher returns to the field notes with the themes and patterns in mind. This time, the researcher will begin to write a draft of the findings section. Once this is completed, the writing will begin.

This study follows these systematic procedures for analyzing field notes, interview transcripts and artifacts. I typed both the field notes and the interview transcripts; this provided an entry point for the data and became an initial reading. As I typed field notes and interviews, I would add notes in a different colored font.  During the third and final stage of my analysis, I returned to the data with patterns in mind and examined it for the research question. For this study, I read the data completely 18 times.

To maintain confidentiality, throughout the findings, the news organization will be referred to as the Gazette, and the employees by their title.


In this study, the research question asks how leadership contributes to the organizational culture of the Gazette. Kets De Vries (2001) and Schein (2006) both identified leadership as a prime component of how culture develops in an organization. Leaders have a strong influence on how culture is shaped. At the Gazette, Editor-in-Chief is the clear leader. She spent more than 30 years in legacy media. When she took a buyout and left her prior organization, she immediately began wondering about her next step.

Role of Leadership

Over the years since the Gazette began, Editor-in-Chief’s role at the organization shifted. At the start, employees said she played a much larger role in the organization’s day-to-day operations. However, she now contributes to the overall focus of the Gazette, but spends most of her time dealing with business issues. During the time period observed, Editor-in-Chief focused a lot of time on a specific future funding opportunity. She frequently attended meetings concerning this opportunity. She also frequently worked offsite, editing stories while traveling to visit her children and grandchildren. Even when she was not physically in the newsroom, however, Editor-in-Chief ‘s influence remained. She is the leader, and the culture of the organization is set and influenced by her. This culture is set even when she is not there and when visitors occasionally come to the newsroom. In various spots around the newsroom sit Gazette brochures that define the organization’s mission statement. This mission statement, written by Editor-in-Chief, specifically notes what she wants for news. This artifact sets the tone for the organization.

When in the office, Editor-in-Chief clearly led the staff. At all meetings she attended, she controlled the conversation and facilitated discussion. Everything went through her. Other editors did not ask Editor-in-Chief specific questions about specific stories, but rather questions about the overall issues. For example, when talking about coverage of the State of the Union Address, Editor-in-Chief asked Features Editor how the Gazette planned to cover the event. When Features Editor responded that they would focus on “the facts,” Editor-in-Chief agreed and made her vision known: “We don’t need a narrative. If there is one, great, but if not, just the facts.” This quote paraphrases exactly what Gazette brochures lay out as a mission statement. She said her primary focus with the Gazette is quality. “I’m worried about good journalism” (personal communication, March 13, 2013). These decisions and explicit instructions were not only followed in those instances, but also recalled by other employees in subsequent situations. For example, when a reporter planned to cover a speech a month after the State of the Union, the News Editor told the reporter to “focus on the facts and don’t worry about narrative.” This advice clearly parroted Editor-in-Chief. When Political Reporter discussed how he dealt with editors, he inadvertently illustrated Editor-in-Chief’s role at the Gazette.

“I talk with my editor, (News Editor), all the time. We have many conversations about stories and she knows what she’s looking for. I talk with (Features Editor) occasionally, when (News Editor) is on vacation or if I’m doing an arty story or a more featury story. Occasionally I talk to (Health Editor) if it’s health related, but not very often. (Editor-in-Chief) sometimes gets in the mix as a person who pushes you in the right direction or something” (personal communication, March 21, 2013).

Political Reporter’s quote explains how Editor-in-Chief sets the direction of the news organization without becoming involved in the day-to-day decisions about coverage. News Editor and Features Editor also said that Editor-in-Chief occasionally becomes very interested in a particular topic, and that means coverage needs to focus on that issue; this idea is communication both explicitly and implicitly. For example, at a news meeting, Editor-in-Chief simply told the staff that she wanted a series concerning gun control. That series was set in motion immediately. In a different meeting, one held about a month later and without Editor-in-Chief, Features Editor noted that something in the news that day usually interested Editor-in-Chief so the staff should act accordingly and follow up with coverage. Editor-in-Chief will not say how she wants the coverage, just that she finds something interesting. News Editor said that Editor-in-Chief is very clear on direction.

“One thing is that Editor-in-Chief does set direction. She makes it clear. You know, she gives us a lot of leeway and I think Features Editor and I, well, we pretty much manage the daily. I was going to say paper, but you know what shows up every day. But I think Editor-in-Chief is very clear about giving direction about the kinds of things she thinks are important” (personal communication, March 15, 2013).

Editor-in-Chief sets the directional tone at the Gazette also. Employees look to her for the “right” decision. In multiple interviews, Gazette employees noted that whenever they find themselves unsure about how to deal with an issue, they contact Editor-in-Chief. This illustrates her role because not one reporter discussed Editor-in-Chief playing a large part in how they produce stories. When a Gazette reporter said “my editor,” they meant either Features Editor or News Editor, not Editor-in-Chief. But major decisions come from Editor-in-Chief. When a reporter struggled with how to cover something, not what to cover, they looked to Editor-in-Chief for guidance.

For example, an organization in a partnership with the Gazette became outspoken concerning a certain ballot item. Nobody in the newsroom knew exactly how to deal with the issue and immediately turned to Editor-in-Chief for answers. “I don’t want to overreact to this,” she said, “but we cannot be involved in a partnership where they’re strategizing with one side.”

In another example, the Gazette accepted a grant from an arts organization. The grant called for the Gazette to hold community meetings to discuss issues in the arts. Editor-in-Chief found herself a little indecisive about the experience at first, but after the meetings, she said she thought the partnership worked well. She noted, and again crystalized her vision for the news organization, during a morning budget meeting. This experience served as a blueprint for how the Gazette should approach grants in the future.

“If you were going to articulate a guideline for us, this seems like a start. This felt a little uncomfortable for me at first because we were partnering with an organization that was giving us money, and we report on them. But they were also genuinely wanting to know what was going on. So that’s a sort of guideline for the future. There are probably organizations we don’t want to partner with, like a liquor store that wants to know where liquor is sold” (personal communication, March 16, 2013).

Strategic Development Manager noted the tension between the business side of the Gazette and the editorial.

“There’s never really a bad monetary opportunity for grants or whatever, I think. The editorial side might disagree. The bottom line is it comes down to (Editor-in-Chief). I mean, she has such a great background with journalistic ethics that, like, the line does end with her. So basically we have to feel out what feels right and then think about it. In the end, we ask (Editor-in-Chief) because she’ll have the right answer” (personal communication, March 18, 2013).

This statement implicitly notes the difference between the Gazette and typical news organizations. In most cases, the decision above would be made by a leader from the business side, but at the Gazette, Editor-in-Chief makes the decision. She can alleviate the tension between business and editorial as she leads both, explained the Features Editor in one conversation.

“She sets the tone. We know that all decisions will be based on what’s best for the community, not what’s best for us monetarily or something. (She) knows that our ultimate bosses are the readers and they don’t care about anything but receiving the highest quality news possible” (personal communication, March 15, 2013).

During the time period observed, the Gazette worked on a series of stories concerning obesity in the community. An organization funded the series, and Health Editor noted how the editorial side of the Gazette worked with the business side of the organization on this type of story.

“It’s very touchy and it was hard for (Editor-in-Chief) to say, ‘OK, we’ve got to go out to these foundations and get money.’ This is new territory for journalists, of course, but it’s also our future. So we went. We’ve been very, very careful. News Editor looks carefully at our stories. She takes a political test on all of them so she feels they are unbiased. (Editor-in-Chief) looks again, as she reads every story. But it’s something we’re all really careful about” (personal communication, April 5, 2013).

Some of the journalists at the Gazette consider Editor-in-Chief a mentor or an idol. In interviews, numerous Gazette employees lauded Editor-in-Chief’s experience and remarked how much they have or hoped to have learned from her.

How Leadership Shapes Culture

Editor-in-Chief informs and influences the culture of the Gazette on both a daily micro and macro way. During the time period observed, Editor-in-Chief worked out of the newsroom 35% of the time. When in the newsroom, the Gazette had a more formal environment. The staff held budget meetings, they engaged in fewer personal conversations, and the workday appeared more structured. On days when Editor-in-Chief worked from the Gazette newsroom, all major decisions concerning editorial went through her. This did not appear to be the case on days when she worked offsite. On a more macro level, Editor-in-Chief built the foundation of the Gazette, and the staff enacts her mission for the organization daily. She still retains a firm hold on communicating that mission.

Editor-in-Chief enacted a “news that matters” approach taken daily by the Gazette. When in the office, Editor-in-Chief sometimes verbalizes this approach concerning a story. When discussing a particular story with a reporter, Editor-in-Chief said, “Start with people directly affected and then you build around them, not the other way around. You need a place to start. We need a vehicle.” This advice clearly articulates her vision of an online newspaper using context to tell stories. On a day when Editor-in-Chief worked out of the office during a trip to Vermont, News Editor told a reporter over the phone that a story needed more people affected by the incident, thus continuing the mission.

When Editor-in-Chief is out of the office, News Editor and Features Editor run the day-to-day operations, but Editor-in-Chief’s mission remains present. For a series on gun violence, Editor-in-Chief called a meeting to brainstorm ideas. Before the meeting, she told News Editor and Features Editor that she could not oversee the series as closely as she would want. She implied that this meeting would allow her the ability to communicate what she wanted out of the series, even though she would only be tangentially involved. Editor-in-Chief originated the idea for the series and called the meeting to make sure Gazette employees understood her vision. In the newsroom, to other editors, she said,

“I think the key would be doing it in a way that would let people see the patterns of gun violence. Maybe we pick a block that’s in the middle of this and see who’s here, what’s happening and how this intersects with these bigger trends. I will send this note around and say, ‘Let’s make a big deal out of this.’ But I’m doing that without knowing if it is a big deal” (personal communication, March 16, 2013).

When the Gazette faced the quandary of whether to publish a racist political photo, the staff looked to Editor-in-Chief for the decision. Editor-in-Chief verbalized what she saw as the predicament. The Gazette could run the photo, letting the community see the depiction, but it would also spread a racist image. Or the organization could describe it, and not give it any more prominence. Eventually, Editor-in-Chief decided on the latter. “I’m inclined to describe it and not print it. People can find it if they want,” she said.

When Education Reporter wondered how to proceed with a story about a local university, Editor-in-Chief assisted in the decision. Education Reporter had off-the-record sources concerning an administrator at the school, but struggled with publishing the piece without attribution. Editor-in-Chief stepped in and verbalized that she did not feel comfortable running the story without this particular attribution. Editor-in-Chief consistently made this type of decision, ones that could potentially affect the Gazette’s credibility.

In one specific instance, Editor-in-Chief’s influence manifested itself without her ever actually having a say in the manner. During a three-day period when Editor-in-Chief traveled on a working vacation, one political reporter encountered a predicament: Should the Gazette cover a specific angle concerning a political race that might not add anything to the story, but could generate interest. “I couldn’t decide what to do,” the reporter said. “It was an interesting little bit of a story that would ultimately not matter in terms of the campaign, but it could upset certain people and generate interest. I knew other organizations would fully cover it.”

With Editor-in-Chief away and not easily accessible, the reporter literally thought, “What would (Editor-in-Chief) do?” The reporter briefly discussed the issue with a direct editor, but neither of them could come to an understanding of exactly how to cover the situation. “We both had a similar idea of what was necessary,” said the reporter, “but we didn’t know exactly what to do. On one hand we could completely discuss the issue and maybe generate some interest with readers who care about prurient issues; on one hand we could just not cover the issue at all because it really did not matter and was just a propped up charge with no meaning behind it; and then on the mythical other hand, we could discuss the story briefly and just make it clear that it has no legs” (personal communication, April 5, 2013).

After spending the early afternoon debating the next step, the reporter made a decision, not based on a direct editor’s opinion or their own, but on what Editor-in-Chief would do. “I just kept going back and forth,” said the reporter, “but then I thought this isn’t too complicated. Our mission is to provide news that impacts people and helps them understand the world around them. That’s what (Editor-in-Chief) always says to do. That’s what our mission statement basically says” (personal communication, April, 5, 2013). In this particular situation, the reporter initially thought that the covering the issue at all would be a negative decision since it would bring attention to something that didn’t deserve it. But the reporter also knew other organizations would cover it and not give the community the information it needed to process the information. “I knew that our job is to provide news that matters and this was going to matter to people regardless of whether we covered it. I knew, as (Editor-in-Chief) always says, we need to impact our readers. Explaining that this isn’t news and where the information came from is what our job would be” (personal communication, April 5, 2013).

Even when she is not physically present, during the time period observed, Gazette employees called Editor-in-Chief to solicit advice. Therefore, even as time passes, and Editor-in-Chief delegates more and more decision-making power to staffers, she is still shaping culture. Schein (2006) wrote that a particularly strong leader’s vision would powerfully influence culture even after they step down from a leadership position. Over time, that influence dissipates but not without the emergence of a new significant leader. This has not yet happened at the Gazette, where Editor-in-Chief still shapes culture on a daily basis.


The Gazette remains an award-winning digitally native news nonprofit producing community journalism. The three main co-founders of the organization all spent more than three decades in prominent positions at a legacy media organization in the same community. All three founders remain heavily involved in the community through charities and civic organizations.

As a newsroom, the Gazette spends more than 53% of its operating budget on the editorial department, and its large staff, relative to its operating budget, displays a clear and sizeable commitment to editorial quality. The organization prides itself on this commitment, with numerous mentions in promotional materials speaking to its nonprofit status and goal of providing contextual reporting that connects issues to the community. The organizational culture of the Gazette revolves around this commitment to quality. Editor-in-Chief, the undisputed leader of the organization, significantly impacts and sets the vision for this culture. She started the Gazette because of her dealings with her prior employer, which she thought placed too much of an emphasis on finances. The Gazette, alternately, places an emphasis on journalistic quality because of its leader.

This study illustrates that the perceived lack of quality of Editor-in-Chief’s former employer directly led to the Gazette’s establishment. Founders, especially Editor-in-Chief, believed the community needed another media source, one that would “fill in the gaps in coverage” created by other local media, as noted by Assistant Editor (personal communication, March 15, 2013). Founders acknowledged that they believed a nonprofit media source would alleviate the need for high profits and allow the Gazette to focus on providing readers with quality and important news. After surveying the country and hearing about Voice of San DiegoGazette founders decided they could start and support a similarly structured enterprise.

During the time period observed, this focus on quality and contextualized reporting became overtly apparent. Gazette staffers consistently espoused and displayed an allegiance to what the organization deemed quality journalism. This language concerning quality journalism and “news that matters” appeared on flyers printed by the Gazette in its early days, and years later all reporters still mentioned it as a priority. These fliers still sat prominently in the newsroom and were handed out to community members at events.

This shows how Editor-in-Chief’s leadership and mission still shaped organizational culture at the Gazette. Gazette employees rarely discussed finances. While some staffers displayed an underlying fear concerning the long-term viability of the organization’s market model, none relayed fears of layoffs or losing their job. McManus (1994) found that in market-driven organizations, a need for continuously growing revenues permeates into the newsroom and affects news production. The Gazette displays none of this. Conversations expressly concerning the wants of the audience did not occur. In fact, I observed quite the opposite numerous times. Gazette editors and reporters occasionally discussed how the audience did not want, for example, coverage of small county elections, but journalists believed this coverage affected readers and therefore boasted strong importance.

News judgment remains the underlying main element of the Gazette’s culture. Editors preach and practice an unadorned focus on news judgment. Reporters should find and report stories that represent the Gazette’s definition of news. Editors will consistently imply that content is completely dependent of news judgment. In some cases, the aforementioned anecdote concerning whether to cover a specific story about a political campaign, the Gazette only covered the issue so it could debunk expected coverage from other news sources. The reporter’s initial instinct was to cover the issue, but the implicit influence of leadership made the reporter rethink the decision and realize the job, in that instance, was to contextualize the situation and help community members understand why this issue did not matter.

Schein (2006) presented a theory of organizational culture that researchers can only see and understand culture through three levels of analysis: artifacts, espoused beliefs and basic underlying assumptions. The Gazette presents an aligned culture based upon these three levels. From promotional material to personal interviews to underlying assumptions, the Gazette demonstrates a newsroom focused on providing its own definition of quality journalism, which revolves around contextualized reporting on issues that affect the community, or as employees call it, news that matters.

This unified vision remains due to strong leadership from Editor-in-Chief. Both Schein (2006) and Kets De Vries (2001) stress that leadership shapes organizational culture. They wrote that, especially at the beginning when original leaders remain in positions of power, leadership provided the most important influence on culture. At the Gazette, Editor-in-Chief takes this role seriously. During the time period observed, staffers did not make important decisions without her. At various instances, when a staffer encountered an issue, they turned to Editor-in-Chief for a solution. All staffers noted her ability to steer the Gazette, even when not intimately involved in a situation. Employees discussed Editor-in-Chief as someone constantly lurking behind the scenes, making the final decisions about major issues and, as Political Reporter noted, “someone who pushes you in the right direction.” Staffers all valued her leadership.

As Schein (2006) and Kets De Vries (2001) noted, leadership can shape the culture of an entire organization. This study illustrates that in a newsroom, leadership plays a much larger and more important role. McManus (1994), Gans (1979) and countless other researchers found that news organization leaders tend to focus on profits and, in recent years, this attention to stock prices affected newsrooms (Bagdikian, 2004). More often than not, journalists do not lead news organizations (e.g., Barnouw, 1997; McChesney, 2004). Going all the way back to Joseph Pulitzer, journalists acknowledged the potential tension between news and profits (Schudson, 1978). McChesney (2004) argued that very rarely does this tension dissipate, only when the goal of quality news coverage aligns with the goal of financial profits. Therefore, in a news organization, leadership’s influence on culture remains critical. McManus (1994) found that journalists still vocalized an ultimate goal of quality, but remained highly skeptical of leadership. At the Gazette, because staffers believe in Editor-in-Chief’s journalistic credibility, and because it is Editor-in-Chief’s primary mission, the entire newsroom acts accordingly. In most businesses, there is one primary, ultimate goal, but journalism serves a dual market, one for audience and one for advertising (Baker, 1994).

This study finds that in a newsroom, leadership becomes even more important to the ultimate vision due to consistent goals. In traditional newsrooms, leaders on the editorial side predominantly answer to leaders on the business side. These sides, according to McChesney (2004), rarely have the same goals. Schein’s theory of organizational culture primarily focuses on how leadership determines ultimate success. Disagreements arise between leaders and workers primarily because of differing goals. Editor-in-Chief’s leadership keeps the ultimate goals of employees uniform.

If the future of community journalism really does lie online, then many different market models, such as the digitally native news nonprofit, will begin to permeate the industry. It is important to understand each of these models’ leadership structure because that will significantly impact the type of news it covers. The industry is seeing an influx of smaller, flatter organizational models (Kaye & Quinn, 2010), models that allow for leaders to make a more direct impact. When AOL purchased Patch in 2009, many believed this changed the future of community journalism. Yet numerous studies show that corporate leadership affected content choices and journalists did not successfully engage with readers (e.g., St. John, Johnson, & Nah, 2014). Ultimately, corporate ownership decreased funding significantly for Patch sites. Journalists who start their own publications, however, do not primarily seek financial gain and are more interested in quality journalism (Nee, 2013). This could result in leadership having a large effect on the future of community journalism.


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About the Author

Dr. Patrick Ferrucci is an assistant professor in the Department of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado – Boulder.



Community Journalism Journal Issue 2 Volume 1 Volume 4

A Scout is Frame-Ful: Framing, Community Newspapers, and the Boy Scouts of America

Marcus Funk

The Boy Scouts of America are a staple in American community newspaper coverage. This was particularly true in 2013, when the BSA adopted a controversial policy concerning members who are gay. This qualitative analysis compares 2012 community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts with culturally preservationist rhetoric espoused by conservative politicians. Analysis found that community newspapers avoid controversy entirely and instead focus on positive displays of local scouts, achievements, and connections. It implies that community newspapers are imagining an association between those local identities, and that conservative political rhetoric imposes cultural associations which are not reflected by community media. This study of 2012 news is particularly noteworthy given intervening and recent changes concerning the Boy Scouts’ membership, and the growing cultural prominence of gay rights and gay marriage.

The summer of 2015 saw considerable evolution in the so-called American culture wars. The United States Supreme Court instituted nationwide gay marriage in June, and almost exactly a month later the Boy Scouts of America abandoned its controversial ban on homosexual leaders (Leopold, 2015). Scholarship on contemporary coverage of this debate is a worthwhile endeavor. Such research on current events, however, would benefit considerably from scholarship focused on older news coverage of the same events – a “before,” in a sense, to offer a baseline comparison to the “after.” Community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America offers an intriguing example.

In 2013, when gay marriage remained a controversial state-by-state proposition, a passionate debate reconsidered the group’s longstanding ban against homosexual scouts and adult leaders. Many progressive voices, including the Episcopalian and Unitarian Universalist churches and, earlier, the advocacy of both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney (Camia, 2012), encouraged the Boy Scouts to abandon a blanket ban based on sexuality. Traditionalist voices, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and a number of Republican politicians, argued instead that homosexuality and the admission of homosexual members would compromise the Boy Scouts’ moral integrity. A number of prominent Texas Republicans, including Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, wrote an open letter to the BSA leadership:

As state elected officials, we strongly encourage the Boy Scouts of America to stick with their decades of support for family values and moral principles. Capitulating to the liberal social agenda not only undermines the very principles of scouting, but sets the stage for the erosion of an organization that has defined the American experience for generations of young men (Walls, 2013).

BSA leadership forged a compromise in 2013 – homosexual scouts would be admitted, but not homosexual adult leaders. The new policy encouraged liberals and disheartened conservatives, and was ultimately overturned. In 2015, Boy Scouts of America president and former secretary of defense Bob Gates said the ban “cannot be sustained,” and the organization opened adult membership to homosexuals; it did retain an exception for conservative church-led troops, however, allowing them to choose adult leaders “whose beliefs are consistent with their own” (Leopold, 2015).

From a media studies perspective, however, coverage of that 2013 Staples-Patterson[1] letter inadvertently raises an intriguing question. Their letter, along with much of the conservative ethos surrounding the Boy Scouts, implies a Mayberry-esque character – that the Boy Scouts remain a highly traditional, heterosexual, God-fearing group of achieving young boys and men. Were that the case, it seems logical that local media would reflect those values in their coverage of local Boy Scout troops.

How do local media frame coverage of local Boy Scouts? Does local newspaper coverage share the Staples-Patterson rhetoric? Such an analysis would need to have taken place before both the 2013 controversy and its resolution in 2015; otherwise, the debate itself might influence the coverage of the Scouts. Fortuitously, a broad analysis of framing and community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America was conducted in the summer of 2012, months before the debate erupted. Qualitative framing analysis utilizing major frames by Entman (1993) and Reese (2001) will therefore answer this question while expanding framing analyses into the fertile ground of American community newspapers. Both frames will then be used to determine if community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts shares the Staples-Patterson rhetoric.


Framing, as a theory, is elastic and evolving; as such, a number of complementary definitions and perspectives have developed over time. What D’Angelo (2002) has described as a research portfolio of sorts has common roots in the works of scholars like Tuchman (1978), who argued that routinized and institutionalized frames and structures define media content; Gans (1979) who identified structured news patterns and filters through ethnographic research; Gamson and Modigliani (1989), who argued that frames are tangible tools for use by media and social actors; and Pan and Kosicki (1993), who noted that the framing process is a dynamic dialogue between sources, journalists and audiences to determine common frames. In each, a frame is effectively a composite of extant media content and implicit sociological meaning.

This study is designed to explore framing and community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America; so, it employs a pair of popular framing methodologies.

One theory used here was designed by Robert Entman (1993), who argued that framing is essentially an expression of selection and salience. “To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described” (Entman, 1993, p52). Of critical importance is the identification of a problem, and a solution, by the media; indeed, Entman argues that news inherently constructs conflict. Entman’s perspective is perhaps the most common application of framing theory, and it has been used by a number of scholars in a diverse group of studies (Bell & Entman, 2011; Nielsen, 2008; Rowling, Jones, & Sheets, 2011; Weimin, 2010).

Entman’s (1993) consideration of problem definitions and treatment recommendations seems logical for national media; however, literature shows that community media, with its primarily local focus, are not necessarily as conflict-prone as national media (Harry, 2001; Kanervo & Kanervo, 1995; Reader, 2006). An environmental controversy in West Texas, for example, required community journalists to consider community needs and affiliations much more sensitively than reporters at regional metropolitan newspapers (Schweitzer & Smith, 1991), and Reader (2006) found that among small-town editors, “community values were often given priority over journalistic values” (Reader, 2006, p861-862). Furthermore, a survey of small town mayors and city managers indicated that those political elites are somewhat ambivalent toward news coverage of controversy; while they generally approved of the watchdog role of the local press, they were more strongly committed to a sense of harmony and community cohesion (Kanervo & Kanervo, 1995). This is not to say, by any stretch, that community newspapers and hard-hitting journalism are incompatible; rather, it does suggest that Entman’s (1993) conflict-centric framing perspective may not be the best fit for the study of community journalism.

The second perspective used here, designed by Reese (2001), is arguably more agnostic toward conflict and centered more around patterns than particular elements. Frames are “organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world” (Reese, 2001, p11). The perspective pursues predetermined frames of organization, persistencesymbolism and structure (Lewis & Reese, 2009, p. 87). This framework is a bit broader than other framing methodologies, but shares much with approaches adopted by other recent framing studies (Bullock, 2007; Dirikx & Gelders, 2010; Rogan, 2010; Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000; Spratt et al., 2007).

Unlike Entman’s (1993) perspective, Reese’s (2001) approach to framing does not have obvious friction with the study of community journalism. Academic analysis has not considered the organization of, or symbolism in, community newspaper content; as such, it provides a particularly intriguing framework.


This study applies two prominent framing perspectives to the study of American community newspapers and the Boy Scouts of America. The logic for these selections is threefold.

Firstly, given the volume of news coverage of the Boy Scouts of America and their new policy toward homosexual membership, as well as potential political and cultural ramifications of the policy shift, analysis of media coverage of the Boy Scouts is appropriate. It is particularly important to study community news coverage of the Boy Scouts before membership controversies and policy changes began – doing so properly establishes coverage of the Scouts, not the controversy, and informs the broader debate on the character and role of the Scouts in general.

Secondly, framing is rare in the evolving niche of community journalism research. Hyper-local weekly and daily newspapers are considered “relentlessly local” (Lauterer, 2006) and highly representative of, and accountable to, local audiences (Hume, 2005; Mersey, 2009; Reader, 2006; Smethers, Bressers, Willard, Harvey, & Freeland, 2007). While there have been some inquiries concerning community newspapers and social capital (Jackson, 1982; Jeffres, Lee, Neuendorf, & Atkin, 2007; Mersey, 2009), the bulk of the scholarship has been oriented toward in-the-newsroom adaptability and innovation (Brockus, 2009; Burmester, 2011; Chavez, 2010; Funk, 2010; Gilligan, 2011; Graybeal, 2011; Greer & Yan, 2010; Lowman, 2008; Reader, 2011).

Only a sparse few of these community journalism studies have assessed framing directly. At least one study, a quantitative analysis of community newspapers in California and Missouri, focused expressly on community newspapers; it found that often community newspapers frame agricultural biotechnology in more diverse ways, and with more diverse sources, than national media (Crawley, 2007). Among traditional metropolitan publications, Holt and Major (2010) found that metro papers in Louisiana were more prone to “human interest” stories about the Jena Six than national media (Holt & Major, 2010).

Thirdly, proper study of community newspaper content requires analysis of core content – news and photographs which speak to the essence and values of community newspapers. Past research has indicated that community newspapers are more locally focused and civically-minded than metropolitan publications (Hume, 2005; Kanervo & Kanervo, 1995; Lauterer, 2006; Reader, 2006; Schweitzer & Smith, 1991). Community newspaper coverage of a particularly local and civic organization, like the Boy Scouts of America, provides an ideal text for this study. Coverage of a local civic group is consistent with the local and civic focus of community newspapers writ large, which is particularly important given the scarcity of current framing analysis of community newspaper content.

Few organizations, too, have the staggering volume of the Boy Scouts of America. In 2011, 2.7 million youth members were enrolled in 111 thousand Scout troops across the United States and in American enclaves abroad. More than one million adult volunteers ran and staffed the organization (“At a Glance,” 2012; Mazzuca, Perez, & Tillerson, 2011); nearly 38 thousand of those troops (and 421 thousand Scouts) were associated with the Mormon church, with several thousand others paired with Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, and other religious groups (“Chartered Organizations and the Boy Scouts of America,” 2012). The Scouts have enrolled more than 114 million members since their founding in 1910; two million of those Scouts have been awarded an Eagle Scout award (“100 Years in Review, 1910-2010,” 2011).

The organization is massive by any quantitative measure. Even excusing the exodus of many conservative troops following the 2013 controversy (Lohr, 2013; Nicks, 2013; Payne, 2013), it is safe to assume the group has wielded considerable influence over American society over the last century.

The Scouts have only barely been studied in academia, however.[2] The only clear example is a study of a “gay market index” in metropolitan markets which argued via that metropolitan demographics influenced news coverage of gay rights, including membership within the Boy Scouts (Mitchell, Pollock, Schumacher, & de Zutter; Pollock, 2007). Remaining studies on the Boy Scouts, however, are only tangentially related to communication theory (Boyle & Marchak, 1994; Guardado, 2009; Hahner, 2008; Miller, 2006; Weiberg, 1977). The group was largely skipped, even, in Robert Putnam’s (2000) iconic book on social capital – an ideal place for discussion of local, populous civic groups (Putnam, 2000).

The current study provides unique opportunity to fill these scholastic gaps. Community newspapers are typically understudied a theoretical level, even concerning content central to their local identity; the Boy Scouts, too, have been studied little by the academic community. Given the recent controversy surrounding the character and membership of the Scouts, a framing analysis seems prudent.


This study seeks to explore the application of popular framing perspectives onto coverage of the Boy Scouts of America. Such coverage is routine in community newspapers across the United States, and arguably constitutes core community news content. Because framing has rarely been applied to the study of community journalism, it is appropriate to employ diverse perspectives by Entman (1993) and Reese (2001). The former is principally concerned with the articulation of problems and solutions; scholarship on community newspapers, meanwhile, has indicated that many are sensitive about controversial news, and are more loyal to their communities than journalistic practice (Kanervo & Kanervo, 1995; Reader, 2006; Schweitzer & Smith, 1991).

Entman’s (1993) framing perspective may not be as effective, therefore, at describing community newspaper framing as Reese’s (2001) perspective on socially shared and persistent organizing principles.

Furthermore, during the controversy surrounding the 2013 Boy Scout membership debate, many conservative voices argued that the Scouts exemplified traditional values; a comparison of community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America (prior to the controversy) with frames utilized in the Staples-Patterson letter is merited. Therefore, this study adopts three research questions:

RQ1: To what extent, if any, does Entman’s (1993) framing perspective apply to community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America?

RQ2: To what extent, if any, does Reese’s (2001) framing perspective apply to community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America?

RQ3: Using both Entman’s (1993) and Reese’s (2001) perspectives, does community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America share the culturally preservationist rhetoric in the Staples-Patterson letter?

Testing these research questions and framing perspectives requires application of a consistent methodology. Qualitative discourse analysis provides the best approach. It is highly consistent with Entman’s (1993) perspective, and it is also easily applicable to Reese’s (2001) perspective. Furthermore, the construction of media content is inherently a subjective phenomenon; an interpretation cognizant of that subjectivity seems appropriate, and discourse analysis offers the most flexible approach.

The dataset utilized the Library Press Display with a license from a major research university. The online database was instructed to search newspapers in the United States for news articles containing the words “Boy Scout” in the headline or body of the article; the search was conducted twice, in April and July of 2012, and covered the last month of articles. Each searches returned about 1,500 PDFs of newspaper pages containing mentions of the Boy Scouts. The collection included articles from newspapers of all sizes.

A random number generator was used to calculate a random starting point within each set of articles. Community newspapers were operationalized here as publications with regular circulation at or below 50,000 copies; this definition is common in community journalism research (Lauterer, 2006). Although geographic localness is not the only potential community which a community newspaper may serve, the term does apply to the traditional, hyper-local publications studied here.

Articles from larger publications were dismissed, often summarily; the circulation for The Philadelphia Enquirer, for example, did not need confirmation for this study. For unfamiliar publications, the researcher then used the Ulrich’s Periodical Index to confirm circulation size; if the publication was a community newspaper, the page was downloaded and included in the study. If not, it was dismissed. No distinction was made between daily and weekly community newspapers. Care was also taken to ensure that no two articles came from the same publication; doing so ensured findings spoke to community newspapers as a whole, not individual publications with greater resources or outsized interest in the Scouts. Once 25 pages were collected in each month, data collection was terminated.


This study explored prominent framing perspectives and their application to community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America, which represents core content for small weekly and daily newspapers.      The most neutral approach to consider framing perspectives by Entman (1993) and Reese (2001) requires a prior consideration of the text; put another way, the results should be presented first without theoretical consideration. Doing so ensures both perspectives are applied equally to the same texts, rather than selectively for each perspective.

Community newspapers routinely covered the Boy Scouts of America, and they did so in largely consistent fashion. Of principle emphasis were local scouts, local troops, local adult troop leaders, and their families. In some cases, a photo of a Scout and his family stood largely as independent content; in others a full article and photograph was published. Only rarely was text present without a photo or article; typically, these cases were devoted to announcements and meeting schedules.

The vast majority of the articles, as well as the photographs, revolved around people and projects. Many covered a charity initiative or humanitarian drive (“Boy Scouts hold successful food drive,” 2012; “Cleanup On Ka Iwi Coast,” 2012; “Limestone Ledger,” 2012; “Old Lyme to Hold Earth Day Celebration,” 2012; Ward, 2012); others covered more general events, often a camping expedition, fundraiser or banquet. For example:

PRINCETON — Thousands of Boy Scouts ready to use paintbrushes and shovels are scheduled to visit Mercer County in 2013 and lend their helping hands, so local organizers are finalizing the list of projects they can handle. Jeff Disibbio, who is working with the initiative Reaching the Summit/Boy Scout Projects, recently updated the Development Authority of Mercer County about the work being selected in Mercer County. The 2013 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County will bring an estimated 40,000 Boy Scouts to southern West Virginia. (Jordan, 2012)

The date is June 23, and it is a beautiful and sunny afternoon on the top of Mt. Pisgah, one of three Bradford County parks and one of the highest points in Bradford County at 2278 feet above sea level. The aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers cooking on an open fire dances on the breeze. The voices of youth and adults can be heard laughing, cheering and clapping. Cub Scout Pack 4022 of Ridgebury, is enjoying the day together with a family picnic and a pack auction. (Swetland, 2012)

An Edmond Boy Scout presents the colors prior to the LibertyFest Concert at UCO on Thursday. (Schlachtenhauffen, 2012)

Many, too, focused on local scouts earning their Eagle Scout badges, the highest rank in Scouting (“Ewa Beach Boy Scout Renovates His High School Parking Lot,” 2012; “Karg now Eagle Scout,” 2012). Particularly for articles about gatherings or a “Court of Honor,” coverage included listing prominent individuals who spoke or were in attendance; of particular emphasis were connections to the business community and political sphere, as were affiliations with religious congregations and (occasionally) the American military (“Area Boy Scouts council honors Kim Leonard,” 2012; “Boy Scouts give awards,” 2012; Myrick, 2012; Norwood, 2012). Individual Boy Scouts were routinely covered and photographed in conjunction with their families. For example:

Jeff Rice of Albion Boy Scout Troop 164, which is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and Holy Family Parish, recently earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Rice, who is the son of Chris and Linda Rice, built a photo blind for the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge for his Eagle Scout project. The photo blind is located at Mallard Marsh on Sour Springs Road. As project manager, Allen solicited donations for lumber, hardware, stain, cement and roofing materials for the blind. With his team of volunteers, the blind was then built during July and August of 2011. (Reports, 2012)

Stuart Thorburn, 17, of Richmond, was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout on April 15. He is a member of Troop No. 118, sponsored by St. Mark’s Catholic Church, and is a student at Madison Central High School. He is the son of Tom and Linda Thorburn of Richmond. For his Eagle Scout leadership service project, Thorburn, and a team under his direction, built and installed park benches for St. Mark’s Catholic School playground, and is currently in his second summer working at Camp McKee teaching “The Dan Beard Program” to first and second year scouts. (“Thorburn awarded rank of Eagle Scout,” 2012)

MIDDLETOWN — A small patch of earth on the side of the rectory at St. Sebastian’s Church once overgrown with weeds is now adorned with a monument inscribed with the Prayer to St. Sebastian. The spruceup and installation of the monument was done by Sal Nesci Jr. as his Eagle Scout service project. Nesci is a Life Scout with Boy Scouts of America Troop 41. Nesci said he wanted to do something with some permanence, along the lines of a statue. (Salemi, 2012)

Absent entirely from community newspaper coverage was any discussion of controversy, at a local or national level. BSA as a whole was rarely mentioned, and never negatively. Sexuality was never mentioned in any way. Race, too, was omitted entirely; there were some articles and photos of Boy Scouts of ethnic minorities, but articles were never written about an African-American Boy Scout or a Pacific Islander Boy Scout. They were simply articles about Boy Scouts. Furthermore, if there were local disagreements between Scouts or semi-friendly rivalries among local or regional scout troops, they were never mentioned.

These results were then applied to address the research questions. RQ1 asked, to what extent, if any, does Entman’s (1993) framing perspective apply to community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America?

Textual analysis for RQ1 indicated Entman’s (1993) conflict-centric framing perspective has awkward implementation concerning the study of community journalism. His perspective focuses on framing as a method of promoting “a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation for the item described” (Entman, 1993, p52). Literature on community newspapers, however, has indicated that the top consideration is the local audience rather than journalistic practice, and that coverage of conflict is often more nuanced in small papers than larger ones (Harry, 2001; Kanervo & Kanervo, 1995; Reader, 2006; Schweitzer & Smith, 1991). Ultimately, the conflict-centric nature of Entman’s (1993) perspective would be displaced by community newspaper’s local-first ideology.

Conflict, of any kind, was barely mentioned in community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America. Photos of smiling teenagers and their parents can hardly be considered an articulation of a “problem definition,” and without a problem, there is no material to provide a causal interpretation or treatment recommendation. Some content did mention charity fundraisers or membership drives, and it could be argued that such examples did articulate a problem definition of sorts. However, these problem definitions were relatively simple. Membership and charity were both encouraged using direct language, and the problems themselves seem fairly elementary – obviously, charity is a positive, salient quality. This application of Entman’s (1993) perspective seems shallow.

However, the mention of a “moral evaluation” does resonate considerably with community newspaper’s coverage of the Boy Scouts of America. The Scouts are always cast as a moral organization, and its members considered upstanding citizens doing positive, helpful tasks for the community. It is perhaps a simple moral judgment but it is a tangible element of the news coverage nonetheless.

Entman’s (1993) perspective demonstrates key differences between national and community media. Its ground-up perspective analyses a text holistically to determine the presence and meaning of four key provisions: a problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation. One of those, moral evaluation, is evident in spades among community newspaper articles on the Boy Scouts of America; the remaining three are largely absent. In one sense, this perspective is largely ineffective at considering community newspaper coverage. If three fourths of the criteria are inapplicable, then alternative perspectives should be considered for future research.

RQ2 asked, to what extent, if any, does Reese’s (2001) framing perspective apply to community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America? Textual analysis for RQ2 indicated that Reese’s (2001) framing perspective offered a largely appropriate fit for the study of community journalism. It argues that framing consists of “organizing principles that are socially shared and persistent over time, that work symbolically to meaningfully structure the social world” (Reese, 2001, p11).

Consistently, community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America emphasized local identity, local families, and local events. Scouts were portrayed in a positive light, and as local organizations; both reflect Reese’s (2001) “organizing principles.” Local events are especially important to local newspapers, and the structure and activity-oriented schedule of the Scouts lends itself well to newspaper coverage. These themes seem socially shared and persistent; the Scouts were covered similarly by community newspapers across the country, and over the sample periods. And, they meaningfully structure the social world by prioritizing a civic-minded local organization; the relevant social world is structured, by extension, as a local, civic-minded and family-oriented place with prominent ties to businesses and church groups.

Reese’s (2001) framing perspective offers intriguing textual analysis of community newspaper content. It effectively offers a top-down approach, seeking specific and pre-determined attributes of a media text. Reese’s (2001) criteria were clearly evident in these texts.

RQ3 asked, does community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America share the culturally preservationist rhetoric in the Staples-Patterson letter? This question utilizes both Entman’s (1993) and Reese’s (2001) framing perspectives to consider potential shared culturally preservationist rhetoric among community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America and the Staples-Patterson letter, which serves here as a strong example of conservative opposition to policies expanding Boy Scout membership to homosexuals.

The letter itself is highly consistent with both Entman’s (1993) and Reese’s (2001) perspectives. Using Entman’s (1993) perspective, there is a clear problem definition (the “liberal social agenda”), causal interpretation (“Capitulating to the liberal social agenda”), moral evaluation (which “sets the stage for the erosion of an organization that has defined the American experience”), and treatment recommendation (“we strongly encourage the Boy Scouts of America to stick with their decades of support for family values and moral principles”).

Using Reese’s (2001) perspective, the same clauses indicate socially shared, persistent, and meaningful organizing principles. However, as mentioned previously, Entman’s (1993) perspective is problematic concerning community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America; Reese’s (2001) perspective is a better fit, but there is limited overlap between community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts and the Staples-Patterson letter about the Boy Scouts.

The organizing principles emphasized by community newspapers focused on achievement, family, and the local community. These are clearly socially shared, persistent over time, symbolic, and meaningful. There seems clear overlap with the “family values and moral principles” emphasized in the Staples-Patterson letter. However, there is no mention of threats at all, or indeed anything resembling negative coverage. Mentions of “the liberal social agenda,” homosexuality, or any controversy at all are omitted.


This qualitative analysis of community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America explored prominent framing perspectives by Entman (1993) and Reese (2001). It found that Reese’s (2001) perspective offered the most thorough understanding of community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts, due in large part to its broadness and flexibility; Entman’s (1993) perspective offered a problematic focus on conflict which simply did not conform to the data. It also found problematic overlap with frames used in the Staples-Patterson letter, used here as an example of conservative opposition to homosexual-friendly membership policies.

The appropriateness of Reese’s (2001) perspective is best characterized as further elaboration on the persistent principles that work to “meaningfully structure the social world” (Reese, 2001, p11). An array of studies of community journalism indicates that the principle focus is on local content and the local community (Hume, 2005; Kanervo & Kanervo, 1995; Lauterer, 2006; Reader, 2006; Smethers, et al., 2007). The Boy Scouts of America offer a tangible, visible, civic-minded and family-oriented articulation of both that local content and local community. The Scouts reaffirm the community newspaper’s editorial focus on a civically rich, socially dense local community; furthermore, the Scouts’ focus on values helps reaffirm that local identity as a positive one.

In a sense, community newspapers seem to borrow, incorporate and add local emphasis to the values espoused by the Boy Scouts. To quote the Scout Law, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful and friendly, among other virtues; by covering the Boy Scouts so positively, community newspapers are implying that their communities share those values as well. Taken a step further, they are imagining their communities as trustworthy and loyal, as well as moral and socially integrated.

Coverage of charity drives, Courts of Honor, fundraisers and campouts serve a twofold function. Firstly, they represent achievement of one form or another, be it a new rank or an adventurous campout or canoeing trip. Covering these achievements in community newspapers, in a way, incorporates and imagines them as local milestones as much as individual achievements.

Coverage often emphasizes connections between local Scouts and business leaders, and with military officials and clergy members. This is partly an articulation of local social capital. By emphasizing connections within the local community, community newspapers are effectively emphasizing the connectivity of the community as a whole, which in turn reflects the newspaper’s priority toward the local audience. Partly, too, the focus on connections elevates the organizations being connected – typically the business community, as well as military and church leadership. Each represents other organizations which purport leadership and moral values, and business and church organizations often play prominent roles in local communities. Such coverage, too, imagines the local community as conducive to leadership, business, faith and responsibility.

Furthermore, it’s worth nothing that community newspapers do nothing to engage, legitimize or de-legitimize those controversies; they simply ignore them.  This seems to imply a distancing effect rather than a legitimizing or de-legitimizing one. It is here, then, that a fault line forms between conservative frames in the Staples-Patterson letter and community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America. The letter establishes a problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and treatment recommendation concerning homosexual scouts; none of these frames are adopted, in any way, by community newspapers. Instead, the organizing principles utilized by community newspapers are entirely devoid of issues of sexuality or controversy; additionally, they are also devoid of discussion of race or other potentially exclusionary factors. These community newspapers are using the Boy Scouts, effectively, to effectively imagine an inclusive local community – even if that inclusivity is tacitly based on an omission of exclusion, rather than an outright declaration of diversity.

The coverage is decidedly egalitarian in tone and focuses on the positive character of the Boy Scouts and the local community. Perceived deviant threats to the organization or the community are ignored, unlike the Staples-Patterson letter. This implies that a community newspaper’s priority, at least in this case, is a positive display of community members and their achievements. It also implies that conservatives like Staples and Patterson are assigning cultural associations and meanings to the Boy Scouts which are not reflected by community media.


This qualitative study of framing perspectives and community newspaper coverage of the Boy Scouts of America offers unique opportunity for theoretical discussion. It also opens the door for at least five intriguing analyses – particularly since the discussion has evolved considerably in the intervening three years. The Boy Scouts have since abandoned their ban on homosexual leaders, although the newest policy does allow individual troops to select leaders on their own criteria, allowing troops housed in conservative church communities to effectively maintain a ban on homosexual adult leaders (Leopold, 2015). It’s worth noting, too, that debates concerning both the Boy Scouts and gay marriage are not resolved; recent decisions concerning both have been quite controversial among conservative groups, and the discussion may continue to evolve.

The first new research opportunity studies this transition. It would be tremendously interesting if frames and coverage patterns have shifted between 2012 and 2015. Are community newspapers more likely now to address the membership controversy, in a positive or negative light? Given the national prominence of gay marriage as an issue and Supreme Court case, as well as the new Boy Scouts policy, have community newspapers reconsidered their attempts to avoid the debate? And if so, have they now embraced the conservative rhetoric espoused by Staples and Patterson, or have they instead adopted inclusivity and gay-friendly language as part of their imagined communities? Such an “after” study would require a “before” analysis, as this paper provides; comparison between the two could be highly fruitful.

Secondly, how does coverage of the Boy Scouts in community newspapers compare to coverage in national or big-city media? This study has explored news on the Boy Scouts as “core” content in community newspapers, but perhaps these coverage patterns are equally indicative of coverage of the Boy Scouts by any newspaper. The local publications studied here were unwilling to address controversy and membership in the Boy Scouts; perhaps newspapers in dense urban areas would reach the same conclusion? This could imply that the type of news content drives the tone and level of controversy in news content, perhaps to an equal or greater degree than the size or nature of the news media itself. Potential similarities between community and larger newspapers should not be discounted, and may reveal quite a bit about the future of big city and small town newspapers. Similarly, if larger newspapers were more willing to adopt the frames espoused by political elites, this could be a telling difference between community and larger newspapers – or if that political discussion was even acknowledged by larger media, as it was avoided in local media.

Third, this study argues that Reese’s (2001) framing perspective fits the study of community newspapers well, at least in this instance. How would that perspective fare in a broader analysis of community newspaper content? By focusing on one framing perspective and a variety of community newspaper content, rather than two perspectives and one common topic of coverage, theoretical understanding of community newspapers could be broadened considerably.

Fourth, this study invites an exploration of framing differences among articles written by bylined reporters and submitted content. Many community newspapers publish content on civic organizations, like the Boy Scouts, written by parents or organization members. Sometimes these news releases are published verbatim, and sometimes they are edited, but they represent a different type of content than news written by paid staff. The influence of resources and byline ownership, and how the source of a story relates to its frames, is a worthy avenue of study. It would be interesting, too, to compare coverage of the Boy Scouts of America with news on other civic groups, like Rotary or Kiwanis clubs.

And, finally, these findings invite broader questions on coverage of conflict in community newspapers. It seems clear that conflict frames were avoided by community newspapers covering the Boy Scouts of America; that is not to say, however, that conflict is avoided by community newspapers writ large. It re-emphasizes a point made by Kanervo and Kanervo (1995) and Reader (2006), among others, that community newspapers hold special preference for content which elevates the local community, and that community newspapers approach conflict delicately; these texts do not speak to coverage of politics or education policy, however, which may be potentially more conflict-oriented.

A photograph of a local troop visiting a hypothetical city council meeting, for example, could potentially have little to no bearing on that same newspaper’s coverage of the remainder of the meeting. The Boy Scouts are, after all, a youth group, and coverage of powerful adults may lend itself more directly to conflict and controversy in a newspaper of any size. This study cannot speak to conflict coverage in community newspapers in general; it can only claim that, at least concerning the Boy Scouts of America, local connections and achievement are emphasized while conflict is ignored.


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[1] Both Staples and Patterson entered, and lost, a crowded race for Lieutenant Governor of Texas.

[2] This seems surprising, considering the litany of other studies focused on homosexuals and homosexuality in other contexts (Anspach, Coe, & Thurlow, 2007; Goh, 2008; Gowen & Britt, 2006; Ho, Detenber, Malik, & Neo, 2012; Shamsudin & Ghazali, 2011).

About the Author

Marcus Funk is a doctoral candidate in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.