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Newspaper ‘Opinion Leaders’ and

Processes of Standardization
The author hypothesizes an “arterial process” which would bring
about a high degree of uniformity among U.S . newspapers, even
if economic competition and political diversity could be in-
creased. Better editors and reporters, with professional stand-
ards, seem to be the best hope for counteracting this tendency.

MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS HAVE great quantities; publicity handouts dis-
passed since Marlen Pew, on returning tributed widely; chain ownership; and
from a trip across the country, re- the tendency of most publishers to
marked that “Hundreds of newspapers, maintain a conservative political policy.
though published in cities scattered The present essay will suggest a series
from coast to coast, were as like as so ol further factors which have received
many peas in a pod.”‘ This uniformity, little attention.
or standardization, of the content of It is true, of course, that these indi-
American newspapers has often been vidual newspapers are indeed reporting
noted, and deserves analysis. the events of the same nation and the
Standardization signifies that various same world. Thus one would expect
papers (1) contain the same or similar that every editor would feature an ob-
items, and (2) that these are styled and viously “big” story such as the out-
arranged in the same or similar ways. break of a war, the outcome of a cru-
One particular aspect of standardiza- cial congressional action, or a policy-
tion, which will be the focus of the making speech by the chief executive.
present article, is the tendency of many Critics of standardization feel, however,
papers to feature the same stories atop that the press often exhibits conformity
their front pages, to the exclusion of hardly justified by the value of the par-
others. ticular stories displayed at the top of
Several factors contributing to stand- page one by hundreds of editors.
ardization come easily to mind: wire What seems worthy of study, then, is
services and syndicates, supplying dif- the process by which editors select the
ferent papers with identical material in top stories they will feature on a given
day. If, as may be assumed, individual
*The author. a former newspaper man, is now editors are not entirely dependent on
assistant professor of sociology at Tulane Uni-
versity, New Orleans, La. This article is an out- their own personal criteria of selection,
growth of his Ph.D. dissertation in sociology at how in fact are the top stories chosen?
Columbia University under the direction of Prof.
Robert K. Merton and Prof. Paul F. Lazarsfeld. Who, or what, constitute the guides of
‘In Editor & Publisher, April 22, 1933, p. 82.
Pew was long the editor of Editor & Publisher. editors? Certainly editors do not follow

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governmental leaders’ suggestions as to (30,000)4 said, in response to the rou-

top stories, and would resent such an tine question about which papers he
inference. It is basic in the ideology of read fairly regularly:
the free and responsible press that each I look at the New York Times and
editor is free to decide what his paper the Herald Tribune, too, to see how they
will feature or ignore. The existence of handle the news.
standardization, however, especially as Fortuitously, the interviewer asked,
regards the featuring of certain “top” “Does this help you in playing your
stories rather than many alternative sto-
ries, may have consequences for the Yes. (Pause.) But we don’t neces-
working of democracy. These possible sarily ape them; we always give a local
consequences will be discussed, follow- story the biggest play. . . .
ing an account of some further and This became a consistent pattern in
littlerecognized factors promoting con- the interviews. An editor would be
formity. asked if the “play” of other papers
That these factors exist appears evi-
helped him decide which stories were
dent from the writer’s study of the worth page one. Regularly, he would
processes of newspaper control2 (as agree, then rapidly would back out,
ditferentiated from content, audience usually to afkm that he didn’t copy the
and effect). During this study some 120 other paper, and that local stories, or
newspapermen+ditors and stders- later big stories, always rated over those
were interviewed with relation to “con- featured in the paper read. Two forces
trol,” or editorial production, of the seemed to be at work upon the editor:
paper. The interviews took a conversa- he wanted to acknowledge the aid from
tional form, and averaged well over an other papers, yet as a professional, he
hour each in duration. wanted to maintain his a u t o n ~ m y . ~
Several “standardizing” processes While it is clear that many editors
were discerned. are independent, or “innerdirected”
about their decisions regarding news
fl AS THE OBSERVER WATCHES NEWS- judgment, it also seems evident that one
men at work, he notices that they are paper influences another, as regards the
great readers of newspa~ers.~ In the journalistically vital matter of page one
newsroom, if a man is not working or
play. The influence goes “down,” from
chatting, the chances are that he is
larger papers to smaller ones, as if the
reading a paper. This rather pedestrian editor is employing, in absentia, the edi-
truth entered-and advanced-the in-
tors of the larger paper to help “make
vestigation, however, only when in an
up” his page.6 How true this is in any
early interview a Michigan editor
4 Figures given after a newsman’s locality indi-
cate the circulation range of his paper.
*Warren Breed, ‘The Newspaperman, News ‘This response pattern is analogous to that of
and Society” (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, congressmen, who displayed some reluctance to
Department of Sociology, Columbia University, admit that opinion polls correctly portrayed and
1932; and Ann Arbor, University Microfilms). measured public opinion (and, presumably, the
Another phase of the study is reported in Warren influence of polls on themselves and their votes).
Breed, “Social Control in the Newsroom: A George F. Lewis, “The Congressman Looks at
Functional Analvsis.”
, , Social Forces. 33 :326-3s the Polls,” Public Opinion Quarterly, 4:229-31
(May 193s). (June 1940).
*Staffers interviewed said they read about five ‘ A gross form of influenca was seen in the
newspapers a day, editors claimed seven. Breed, early days of radio in the 1920s. “In the good
‘The Newspaperman, News and Society.” pp. old days, news commentators got their material
103, 134. The term staffers embraces reporters, r e largely by buying late editions of the afternoon
write men, copy readers, etc. papers, jotting down a few notes and marching

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Newspaper “Opinion Leaders” 279
particular case is an empirical question; ACTUAL PROOF THAT THE ARTERUL
some editors are surer of their judgment pattern exists, of course, would require
than others. experimental study. The front page of a
The pattern of influences seems to “big” paper would have to be checked
assume an “arterial” form, analogous against several “satellite” papers in its
(although in reverse) to the dendritic area, and an accurate count kept of
geological pattern by which rills, run- similarities and differences for equiva-
nels and freshets flow into brooks and lent time-intervals. Especially close
streams which in turn join the great watch would focus on “breaks” in the
river. For instance, we would expect news pattern, to see whether the smaller
that, say, a county weekly in Iowa will papers “switched” to the play taken by
“look up to” the nearest daily for some the leader. Distant papers would serve
guidance as to news values. The small as controls. Short of such an experi-
daily, in turn, will scan the nearby big- ment, however, the following evidence
city papers which are checking the Des can be marshalled to substantiate the
Moines Register’s front page. Register arterial hypothesis.
editors will be reading papers (we 1. The great amount of newspaper
would expect) from such regional cen- reading by newsmen. This does not
ters as Chicago, Minneapolis and St. prove influence, but it is logical to ex-
Louis. In addition, they, together with pect that newsmen read papers not
most other editors, will also see one or purely for information alone, but also
two of the near-national papers: the to apply their reading to their own
New York Times,7 the Herald Tribune, work. Continued exposure to a set of
and the Christian Science Monitor. stimuli predisposes the individual to de-
These journals are so widely mentioned veloping a favorable frame of attention,
by newsmen as “papers they see fairly at least when the source of the stimuli
regularly” that they take on new signifi- (in this case, other papers) is valued by
cance as “opinion leaders” for hundreds the individual.0
of smaller papers. Similar patterns 2. Interview responses. No editor
could be found in other areas of life, flatly stated that he did not check other
especially other vehicles of mass cul- papers for their news-play. Most, in
ture (movies, radio, advertising, etc.) , fact, tended to acknowledge the arterial
and in business, family and educational effect. Here is what some said:
activities.s Definitely. You want the help of oth-
er peopl-ther men who have had
up to the microphone.” T. R. Carskadon, quoted
in George L. Bud and Frederic E. Merwin, The lots of experience in preparing their
Newspaper and Society (New York: Prentice- front pages. It’s a must. For example,
Hall, 1942), p. 542. The pattern also occurs in the news editor and I will go to the ex-
this form in communities moving from “folk” to change desk, and compare the handling
“urban” stahls, the writer once watched a radio
news broadcast in Saltillo. Mexico, in which the ’
announcer simply read news from a newspaper. heavily weighted in favor of urban, rather than
‘Thus the Tfmes, with some 500,000 circula- rural, activities. The phrase “opinion leaders”
tion, may have far greater national fnfluence than was originally suggested in Paul F. Lazarsfeld,
the New York Daily News, with its 2,000,000 Bernard Berelson and Hazel Gaudet. The People’s
circulation. Also. of course, the two papers are Choice (New York: Columbia University Press.
read for different purposes. and the Tfmes is 1948). chap. 5.
probably read more by “important” people (opin- * F o r a systematic discussion of this principle
ion leaders). and related principles, see Charles E. Osgood and
”or the ineuence stemming from larger to Percy H. Tannenbaum. “Attitude Change and
smaller cities in other ways, see R . D. McKenrie, the Principle of Congruity,” in Wilbur Schramm,
The Metropolitan Community (New York: Mc- ed., The Process and Eflecfs of Mass Communi-
Graw-Hill, 1933), chap. 8. It is quite clear, inci- cation (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
dentally, that news, in the American sense, is 1954). pp. 2 5 1 4 .

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of stories in various papers. (Managing not, into his own dispatches; they influ-
editor, Ohio, 90,000.) ence his personal political attitude and
I rely on these other good papers for his professional activity.”11 T. R. Caw-
help in news judgment, and on the bet- ley of the Gannett group has opined
ter radio broadcasts. (Editor, Ohio,
25,000.) that perhaps what a newsman considers
To a certain extent, you get a con- news is “measured by his reading of the
sensus, particularly in state stories. I big dailies.”12 Smith and Rheuark quote
don’t check them with that in mind. But a Pennsylvania editor as saying that
if I’m in doubt sometimes, I check an “the best news tips come from newspa-
early edition of a (state capital) paper,
so 1 can keep with my hunch, or change. pers themselves. . ..
A building boom
(Editor, Midwest, 30,000.) in Pittsburgh . ..
may reveal a tiny
Sometimes I will see the (Philadel- boom in the correspondent’s own com-
phia) Inquirer, and get i d e s for my munity.” l 3 Allen, while confining his
headlines. (Wire editor, Pennsylvania,
25,000.) statement to editorials (but presumably
Sure, like everything else, you learn news-play would operate similarly),
from the good points of others. There’s said “For 40 years the great editorial
a herd instinct over the American press; page of the New York World was the
they follow a certain line to succeed- textbook of editorial writers throughout
the line which seems successful for the the country. It was consciously imitated
bigger papers. (Editor, Midwest,
40,000.) by newspapers everywhere.” l4
You always study the other guy’s
front page. (Editor, East, 40,000.) fl SPECULATION AS TO SOME POSSIBLE
reasons why newsmen do so much
A comment by a managing editor to his newspaper reading may add some clari-
wire editor, overheard by the researcher fication to the pattern: (1) Many edi-
while observing city desk action on a tors require staffers to be acquainted
Pennsylvania daily (30,000), was: with late developments on reporting for
“What did the New York papers do work, ready to “follow up” in later edi-
with this story?” tions what happened in time for an
3. Scattered suggestions from the earlier paper. (2) It is professionally
literature. Rosten was struck by the in-
fluence exerted by such papers as the
advantageous for a staffer to keep up,
both on the news itself and on newspa-
New York Times and Herald Tribune, per techniques. (3) Newsmen are not
the Baltimore Sun, the Washington busy at all times during their eight-hour
Post and the Star, and also by colum- day, newspapers are inevitably present
nists-clapper, Mallon, Krock, Allen in all newsrooms, and it may “look bet-
and Pearson. “The influence exerted by ter” to be seen reading than to be mere-
writers for the New York Times, for ly sitting. (4) News becomes a “value”
example, is thus very great: the facts in to the newsman, a phenomenon h e ,
a New York Times dispatch will be rates highly and identifies with; this is
copied widely and incorporated-in possibly so true that he prefers to read
whole or in part-into news accounts
11 Ibid., p. 169.
going to papers all over the country.”lO 12 In Editorially Spenkfng, Rochester. n.d., IV.
Elsewhere, Rosten added: “Newspapers 14-17.
ppiaC. R. F. Smith and Kathryn M. Rheuark.
supply a reporter with information MaMgement of Newspaper Correspondents (Ba-
which he incorporates, consciously or ton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
1944). p. 55.
‘ Eric W. Allen, “The Editorial Page i
1 n the
10 Leo Rosten, The Washington Correspondents Twentieth Century,” in Bird and Merwin, op.
(New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1937), pp. 94-9. cit., p. 310.

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Newspaper “Opinion Leaders” 28 1
papers than, say, to work in his spare believed the Times was not using it be-
office time doing research or planning cause he was “riding” it. The Times re-
a local feature. (5) If there are any porter corroborated this, indicating that
characteristics common to the emotion- it was Times policy not to play second
al and mental make-up of the newspa- fiddle to the other (much newer and
perman, one may be a tendency to rest- smaller) paper. Thus readers of the two
lessness, a searching for something he papers received a markedly different
cannot pin down. One could “search version of the slum clearance situation.
forever” in newspapers. (6) Reading The arterial effect can also work in
newspapers probably fills certain needs reverse, where the bigger paper is sus-
of relaxation and a sense of adequacy pect. One wire editor (eastern 30,000)
(as when he discovers a story which he said, “If I see Hearst giving a story a
could have handled better). In any big blast, I’ll double check it for a
event, the newsman does much news- phony angle.” Similar attitudes among
paper reading, and one would be hard some Midwest newsmen were voiced
put to claim he is not influenced by this concerning the Chicago Tribune.
repeated experience.
Several kinds of suggestive evidence
There are some situations which lim-
have been advanced that the arterial
it, or even negate, the working of the
process in fact exists. A further set of
arterial effect. The big local story gen- data which could support the argument
eraly outranks the big national or world
deals with the career pattern of news-
story, and here the local editor has his
men. Respondents were asked where
own decision to make about relative
men went on leaving their paper. By far
newsworthiness. The more recent story
the greatest proportion went to larger
is preferred to the top story in the big
papers, or to wire services. The associ-
city paper, which was printed hours
ate editor of a Midwest paper (40,000)
earlier and at some distance.
said that in 31 years only two departing
In a city with competing papers, an staffers had gone to smaller papers.
interesting pattern may occur. If one Here we have another reason why news-
paper breaks a story of less than para- men follow larger papers: they may
mount interest, the other will sometimes work for one some day.
ignore or de-emphasize it. An excellent
example was found in Trenton. The re- THE EXISTENCE OF SUCH A PHENOM-
searcher, in checking five weeks’ issues enon prompts the question “Why?”
of both papers, noted that the Trento- Why is it that many editors seek gui-
nian in several issues featured, on page dance from larger papers? Here again
one, news of federal aid to a local slum- some tentative suggestions will be es-
clearance project amounting to some sayed, as points of departure for further
$700,000. The Trenton Times barely research.
noted the development with a few lines 1. Journalism lacks a body of tested
at the bottom of its weekly city council knowledge about news judgment. The
stories. City hall reporters on both learned disciplines-medicine, science,
dailies were aware of this discrepancy. engineering, etc.-have built up,
The Trenioniun reporter, on being in- through research, a body of systematic
terviewed, said that he had “broken” theory and principles. Journalism, with
the story (i.e., published it first), figured few exceptions, has not. Therefore,
it was big news, and followed it up. He what criteria of relative newsworthiness

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can the small-city editor apply? l 5 4. A final-and more tenuous-line

Which of the scores of stories reaching of reasoning to explain the pattern of
his office any day merit page one? At “follow the opinion leader” would stem
best, he has certain traditional rules of from something we might call the drive
thumb concerning news values (names, toward cosmopolitanism. Small cities
money, sex, scandal, war, conflict, etc.) . show signs of yearning to be bigger;
He does know, however, that the New small papers often seek to increase their
York Times employs many experienced size or appearance of size. They may do
specialists to make decisions about rela- this by employing big-city “circus”
tive news importance. I t is a short step make-up and featuring world, rather
for him to follow such a paper as the than local, news. No American city is
Times. isolated from larger cities. Urbanism,
2. Following the news judgment of through the mass media, travel and mi-
larger papers furnishes the newsman on gration has spread its influence widely
a smaller paper a feeling of satisfaction, into non-urban places. Bigness has often
or a rationalization, that he has per- been termed an American value. That
formed his job adequately. An eastern the small paper may try to simulate the
staffer said that the wire editor of his bigger one, then, is not surprising. One
paper compared his own news decisions hears small-town people speaking apol-
with those of the Times as “proof he’s ogetically about “our little town,” “our
0. K.” The staffer then asked, “Is this little police force,” “our little newspaper
why front pages all over the country here in town.” Small city institutions
look the same?” A second staffer noted ure small, and in American culture big-
that if an editor questions a newsman’s ness is coveted. From such considera-
judgment, the latter can point to a tions of American values about bigness
larger (and thus prestigeful) paper and and status, it could follow that the arte-
show that the big-town editors “agreed rial pattern is a normal response.
with him.” What about the reverse pattern of in-
3. There is scattered evidence that fluence: do small papers influence big
many papers are understaffed. Costs of ones? Available data indicate that they
publishing are up and profits are down. do not. Newsmen, asked which papers
Staffers consequently have little time to they read regularly, seldom mentioned
examine each piece of news for its in- smaller papers. Frequently one reporter
trinsic worth. Only the big papers em- is assigned to check the smaller papers
ploy editors who do nothing but sift and of the surrounding shopping area, to
evaluate dispatches. The small-town clip items for rewriting. This varies in-
man, aware of this, places faith in the versely with the number of “string”
larger paper and the validity of its news (part-time) correspondents maintained
judgment. by the paper. An example of the “big
lc Walter Lippmann noted the editor’s dilemma
city” orientation of newsmen is the
in his classic Public Opinion, fi&t published in case of the county editor of an eastern
1922. “Without standardization, without stereo-
types, without routine judgments, without a fairly paper (30,000). Although responsible
NthleS disregard of subtlety, the editor would for news in the environs, he had never
soon die of excitement.” Public Opinion (New
York: Penguin, 1946). p. 261. The problem of seen a copy of the weekly paper from a
news judgment has yet to receive adequate study. town 15 miles away, but he knew well
An interesting empirical study is Walter B. Pitkin
and Robert F. Harrel. Vocarional Studies in Jour- the papers from larger cities.
MiLrm (New York: Columbia University Press,
1931), Part I. It seems significant that while news-

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Newspaper “Opinion Leaders” 283
men will perhaps not be surprised about More independent editors allowed
a discussion of the arterial pattern, it that the budget was a handy device but
generally exists below the threshold of that they had their own sense of news
their conscious mind. Only one news- values and judged accordingly. The
man contacted in the survey verbalized comments given above, however, sug-
a statement of the pattern before it was gest how critical the items listed on the
broached by the interviewer. I n much budget can be. One wants to know, who
the same way, pre-literate people may selects the budget items?
be unaware of the functions of some of Interviews with A P executives in
their folkways. New York disclosed that the decision
fl THERE ARE OTHER FACTORS ENCOUR- about budget items is made by the gen-
aging uniformity in news selection: eral news editor, who works an eight-
hour shift, and his two assistants who
The wire budget. This device is a list
take the other shifts. A P bureaus send
of the stories that wire services send to
t c New York a budget line or budget
subscribing papers at the start of each
offering, suggesting their biggest stories
news-day, stories they believe will be
for the day. The general news editor de-
“tops” that day. National budgets (the
cides which will form the budget.
United Press uses the term “editors
schedule”) list some ten stories. These The service message on page one dis-
are supplemented by occasional later play. The “service message,” or “play
notes about “upcoming” big stories, and message,” is close kin to the budget, but
by regional and state budgets. The prac- less prominent. The New York Times
tice dates from the early 1920s. syndicate sends to clients a report of
the stories it is featuring on page one
Some wire editors use the budget
that night, and also which stories the
more than others. It would seem that, as
Herald Tribune is featuring. It would
with the arterial effect, the smaller and
be expected that a New England editor,
less experienced editors use it most. All
say, who changed his make-up after re-
editors contacted, however, looked at it
ceiving the Times message, would skew
each day. Some comments:
his shifts in the indicated direction.
It is used religiously. It immediately Wire services also sometimes transmit
enables you to look forward to what’s notes about the play being given by big
coming-makes make-up easier. You
can almost make up your paper without papers. One editor (eastern, 15,000)
seeing the news-just by using the budg- said :
et. (Ohio managing editor, 90,000.) The UP sends out play messages at
You know they’re (budgeted stories) night . . . we do some studying and
important, so you can use ’em. (Ohio soul-searching if the big papers are play-
editor, 30,000.) ing something up and we’ve minimized
Each day the wire service sends out it. (So you do revamp in this case?)
its budget of the big stuff, and the boss Well, we do plenty of analyzing and
follows that. (Assistant wire editor, considering about it.
eastern, 40,000.)
The managing editor . . . makes up Clipping and pasting. An “old-timer,”
the paper, but doesn’t see the story-he a reporter who had drifted from paper
depends on me for that. But he makes to paper in pre-Guild years, made this
up the paper without reading the copy
-either local or wire stuff. Just uses the remark:
budget, and the report on what the city A newspaperman never thinks up
editor has about local stuff. (News edi- anything new; he copies stuff from oth-
tor, eastern, 60,000.) er papers.

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City editors are still observed clipping with the ideals of democracy? Specifi-
items from other papers for re-working. city requires that we briefly characterize
Sometimes a reporter will simply re- democracy. For the present purposes,
write the same material with a new the following six characteristics of de-
twist; sometimes he will use the clip as a mocracy may suffice:
point of departure and gather new ma- 1. Elective, rather than appointive,
terial on the story. A reporter (eastern, officials.
25,000) said: 2. Reliance on discussion over policy
issues, which in turn means that the
I’m the early man in the morning. I channels of discussion must be kept
. . . clipthe morning paper for each open to all: good government is not an
man’s beat. . . . acceptable alternative to self-govern-
Another reporter (eastern, 60,000) 3. Belief in the essential dignity of
showed a reason for the practice, and the individual, regardless of his status,
criticized it a moment later: and the belief that the individual is ra-
tional and therefore capable of intelli-
Around 8 a.m., the local officials gent discussion.
aren’t on the job yet . . . you can’t call 4. The opportunities and freedoms of
them, so we’ll just copy it right out of the civil liberties, including the freedom
the morning paper. . . . Every morning of speech and the press, the freedom of
the boss gives me the morning paper’s the human personality to develop to the
stories of the day. . . . Confidentially, fullest. and the freedom from the inhi-
if nobody’s watching, I toss ’em in the bitions of orthodoxy and conformity.
wastebasket. Burns me up to think I 5. The separation and balance of in-
can’t cover my beat. . . . terests, to the end that no one group
dominates the activities of others.
Local handling of wire copy. Wire 6. The process of peaceful change, in
stories are seldom changed significantly which forms of government and the
by local papers. When the copy arrives economy are not fixed, but subject to
on a “ticker,” the copy editor generally modification.
confines his efforts to marking capital It will be seen that standardization, as
letters, and “chopping” from the bot- seen in the arterial effect and other de-
tom for space reasons. In recent years vices short of autonomy, falls short of
wire copy is sent to many newspapers in achieving the level of performance re-
coded tape form which automatically quired by the criteria of democracy. In
activates the local typesetting machine; each of the six characteristics, except
any changes would require considerable the first, democratic norms would de-
work. The technological innovation is mand more independence of the indi-
thus insuring even closer conformity to vidual editor.
the national pattern. On only one paper Criticisms of the press from the point
visited did editors do any considerable of view of democracy usually point to
altering of wire copy; this was a “liber- the class basis of press ownership (“the
one-party press,’’ etc.),*O or to the in-
al” daily near Washington and New
creasing number of onepublisher cities
York, thus in a position to check wire
(Continued on Page 328)
stories, when suspect, with sources in
those news capitals. ‘#For an old and corruscating blast on this
thesis, see Upton Sinclair, The B r a s Check (Pas-
fl IT APPEARS, THEN, THAT STANDARDI- adena: The Author, 1920). For a recent study,
see Nathan Blumberg, One-Purty Press? (Lincoln:
zation of newspapers exists. Now we University of Nebraska Press, 1954); the inter-
pretations based on data in thin study are open
can ask: How does standardization jibe to argument.

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news summaries. In a sense, though, A reader or listener has at each mo-

each follow-up or story of controversy ment but a limited amount of mental
is a review of the controversy. Given power available. To recognize and in-
terpret the symbols presented to him,
the elements of controversy, these meth- requires part of this power; to arrange
ods can be utilized from day to day. and combine the images suggested re-
These structure types allow the con- quires a further part; and only that part
which remains can be used for realizing
tinuing practice of another newspaper the thought conveyed. Hence the more
procedure: the cutting of a story from time and attention it takes to receive
the bottom up. The important elements and understand each sentence, the less
are still at the beginning of the story. time and attention can be given to the
contained idea; and the less vividly will
Chilton R. Bush, in his latest book that idea be conceived. . . .
on news writing, quotes Herbert Spen- Further exploration of the relation-
cer :
ship between story structure and com-
prehension is being planned-particu-
1‘Chilton R. Bush, The Art of News Communl- larly as to the effect on comprehension
c&n (New York: Appleton-Cenhwy-Crofts, Inc.,
19S4). p. 12. of present practices in structuring.

Newspaper “Opinion Leaders’’

(Continued from Page 284)
(“monopoly”) .I7 In contrast, the pres- between the ideals and the working of
ent criticism focuses rather upon editors democratic information processes, at
and the processes of editing, indepen- the point of the editor‘s decision as to
dent of the structure of ownership. In which stories shall be displayed on page
other words, the present hypothesis one. While some are undoubtedly inde-
holds that the arterial and other “jour- pendent and use their own news judg-
nalistic” processes would obtain even ment, many “follow the opinion leader.”
with competing cities and with less oli- It is also clear, however, that editors of
garchic press ownership and control. small papers are not necessarily to be
All these conditions, separate and com- blamed for their abdication of auton-
bined, are non-democratic. For the fu- omy. Rather, a set of institutional con-
ture, one can hardly hope for more ditions causes them to follow the arte-
democratic ownership or for more com- rial pattern. Under these conditions,
petition; but one can always hope that editors may actually be serving their
the trend toward better reporters and readers (but not ideal democracy) bet-
editors will continue, and that this pro- ter by adhering to the news judgment of
fessionalism may reduce the editor’s d s specialists in the big cities.
pendence upon arterial aid. The danger is the potential influence
What this analysis reveals is a gap of a small number of persons in decid-
ing what millions of citizens will read.
‘‘See. for instance, Morris L. Emst, The F i n t
Great responsibility rests upon those
Freedom New York: Macmillan, 1946), chaps. few. In effect, editors of large papers,
111 and N. For a strikingly effective rebuttal to and “general news editors” of wire ser-
this hypothesis, see Stanley K. Bigman, “Rivals
in Conformity,” JOURNALISM QUARTERLY,25: 127- vices, hold more responsible posts than
31 (June 1948), and Raymond B. Nixon, “Im-
plications of the Decreasing Number of Competi- even they perhaps realize, as absentee
tive Newspapers,” in Wilbur Schramm, ed., Com- guides of the news display policies of
municatfonr in Modern Society (Urbana: Univer-
sity of Illinois Press, 1948). pp. 42-57. hundreds of newspapers.

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