Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

Richard W. Lee


The independently owned newspaper is fast disappearing in the United States. ~1uch like other American businesses, American newspapers have become an industry dominated by huge corporations. Ownership of newspapers in the United States is becoming more concentrated because of newspaper groups, also known as newspaper chains. A group can be defined as ownership and publication of several different newspapers in more than one location. During the twentieth century, groups have become the dominant form of ownership in the American newspaper industry. They control almost three-fourths of total daily newspaper circulation in the United States. And groups are estimated to own as much as one-third of all weekly newspapers published in the nation. The study compares editorials printed in independent and group owned weeklies. Newspaper observers are concerned about the growth of newspaper groups. Observers are especially concerned about the potential threat groups pose to the editorial freedom and local autonomy of · the newspapers the groups have acquired. Some critics, including Ben H. Bagdikian, United States Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota, Congressman Morris Udall of Arizona and the late Supreme Court Justice William 0. Douglas, believe freedom of the press is endangered when newspaper ownership is concentrated among fewer owners. The effect of ownership on the editorial content of weekly newspapers also deserves study for historical reasons. Newspapers are the only business mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Press time, the journal of the American Newspaper Publishers Association, said newspapers were mentioned because of the important role they play in providing "crucial information needed by a free society to make effective decisions." Economics Professor Bruce M. Owen said he believes newspapers are America's "most important media link" with the framers of the Constitution. Weeklies are an important medium in American journalism. There are nearly 9,000 weekly newspapers published in the United States. These weeklies are sometimes looked upon as the "bedrock" of American journalism. Therefore, this study attempts to determine what effects ownership has on the editorial freedom and local autonomy of weekly newspapers. Studies have been done concerning the effect of ownership on the editorial independence and local autonomy of daily newspapers. Thrift said the editorials of independently owned newspapers declined in "vigor” after the newspapers were -purchased by groups. However, the decline was not statistically significant.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

American newspapers -- Illinois -- Ownership
American newspapers -- Illinois -- Sections, columns, etc. -- Editorials
Community newspapers -- Illinois



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University