What makes the news? The institutional determinants of the political news agenda
Dunaway, Johanna L.
Stein, Robert M.
Doctor of Philosophy
Mass media is the major source of information citizens use in forming their political opinions. As such, decisions made by the media define the scope of what we know about the political world. This dissertation argues that what the media decides to cover is a result of its own institutional and organizational structures, and that this has important implications for the information citizens are left with to make political decisions. Like any institution in a political context, the media is subject to its own internal pressures and organizational dictates. Institutional factors operate in media organizations as they do in any organization, with norms, rules and incentives shaping decisions and behaviors. Interestingly, how these factors work to shape the news agenda has not often been studied by political scientists. Though many acknowledge the vital role of the media as an institution within our political system, we lack any complete empirical investigation of the institutional factors by which the behavior of media outlets is governed. This work addresses the following research question: How do the institutional and contextual features of local media outlets affect their coverage of local political issues? Using election 2004 news coverage of two major competitive statewide races, I examine the election coverage of 40+ individual news media outlets as a function of their institutional characteristics and market context.
Journalism; Political science