American local radio journalism: A public interest channel in crisis
Sanders, Tyrone, 1951-
This study looks at the status of local radio news in the United States in light of changes in policy, economics, production and distribution technology and the dynamic media environment. It examines how differences in ownership relate to the amount of news programming offered on local stations, how those stations are staffed and the working conditions for today's radio journalists. Two areas of communication theory provide the basis for the study, Political Economy of Communication and Localism. Both offer excellent perspectives for studying the radio broadcasting industry and the people who work in it. Political economy allows the study to look closely at the impact of ownership in our capitalist society, how government regulates ownership and programming, how those factors affect the working conditions for journalists and how they ultimately impact the public interest. Political economy is a holistic approach that also calls upon us to consider a moral philosophy and make recommendations for the good of society. Localism is a long-held policy objective of the Federal Communications Commission that has been a part of the regulatory process relating to ownership and programming of news and public affairs throughout the existence of radio in the United States. Using a triangulation of both quantitative and qualitative methods, the study documents the news operations of four different types of ownership structures within a single radio market, Salt Lake City, Utah. The primary quantitative method used content analysis to examine a sample of 255 hours of radio programming across the ownership groups. Qualitative methods of in-depth interviews and observation were used to examine how the stations were staffed, the working conditions for local journalists and how the news programming is produced. The study found the overall amount of local radio news programming to be low, with locally owned stations generally producing more news then those with large, outside corporate ownership. It also found working conditions to vary greatly among ownership groups. Local owners tended to be much more supportive of local journalists and provide better conditions for the production and programming of local radio news.