Newspapers: Have they met their final deadline? Part One

For my final paper, I will be examining the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry is currently at a turning point. New technology, especially the internet, has changed the way people receive their news. At the same time, the universal advertising-supported revenue model is becoming unprofitable. The industry as a whole has had difficulties keeping up with the times and many newspapers are going under or are moving to online versions online. First, I will look at the organizational structure of a typical newspaper. I will also examine the current revenue model and offer alternative models. Finally, I will discuss how the newspaper industry has succumbed to institutional inertia. 

Part One: Editorial Staffs as Rational Organizations

Editorial Staffs as Rational Organizations

Newspapers have been around since the early 1600’s and have taken many forms, ranging from small pamphlets to the broadsheet papers we see on the racks today. To create one issue of a newspaper, a lot blood, sweat, and tears are combined into what a reader picks up with his morning coffee. A newspaper staff is composed of a group of editors and writers that are arranged in a highly rational and formalized structure. A rational system, according to Scott and Davis, is an organization that is an “instrument designed to attain specific goals, (Scott and Davis 35). Rational systems have goal specificity or “unambiguous criteria for selecting among alternative activities (Scott and Davis 36).”  These goals guide the important decisions of an organization, including “what tasks are to be performed, what kinds of personal are to be hired, and how resources are to be allocated among participants, (Scott and Davis 36).

So what are the specific goals of a newspaper?

The three largest newspapers in the United States, by circulation, the USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, are not very clear with their goals or mission.  The New York Times (as far as I could find) does not have a clear mission statement but does say “The Company’s core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.” . This goal is probably very similar to the goals of the other two aforementioned papers, but it is a little unsettling that their goals are not easily accessible to the public. Organizations with broad or vague goals are more likely to be unstable. The Bucknellian, as printed in its advertising guide , “strives weekly to publish the most successful and professional campus newspaper possible.” Once goals are selected and defined, an organization can then build its structure with these goals in mind.

The organizational structure of a News staff

 Since I have more information about the goals of the Bucknellian than any other organization, I will describe its organizational structure with regards to it being a rational system and the aspects of its formalization. According to Scott and Davis, “a structure is formalized to the extent that the rules governing behavior are precisely and explicitly formulated (Scott and Davis 37).” In other words, a formalized structure is well defined and standardized. The Bucknellian structure is a bureaucracy with a defined hierarchy that is split between the editorial staff and the business staff. The Editor-In-Chief (EIC) is the highest student position in the organization and oversees the content, the layout (how information and graphics are arranged on the pages), the other editors, the general business of the newspaper, and works with the faculty adviser. Under EIC, there are two associate editors, associate editor of content and associate editor of layout, the Business Manager, and the Head Copy Editor. Each associate editor oversees either all the content or all the layout of the newspaper, while the Head Copy Editor manages a team of 12-15 hourly copy editors. The associate editors will help and manage the work of each section editor. There are five section editors (News, Arts & Entertainment, Opinions, Sports and Features) that handle the assigning and general editing of content for each section. Each section editor works with a layout editor to put the content onto actual pages. Some sections, like News, may have an assistant News editor to help handle some of the responsibilities. Writers are the final tier in the organization and report directly to their section editor. None of the editorial staff is paid (except for the copy editors), unlike the business staff. The business staff is lead by the Business Manager who reports directly to the EIC. Under the Business Manager, there is a Head Advertising Manager, two or three advertising managers, and a subscription manager. Each of the business positions are paid positions.

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A deep dive into a process

Let’s look at how the organization fulfils one of its goals, publishing a professional newspaper, by examining the process of publishing a single news article. First, the News editor and the assistant News editor develop some article ideas. They then assign that article to a writer. The writer, in turn, goes out into the world and researches his or her topic, conducts interviews with the appropriate people and writers his or her article.  The writer then emails the article to the News editors who then read and edit the content of the article. The article is then given to the copy editors, under the direction of the Chief Copy Editor, who make sure the article has been fact checked and is in AP Style, (the official style guide of newspapers). The article is then given to the News layout editor, who places the article on to the page (well, the digital version of a page). The Associate Editor of Layout will make sure the article is placed correctly (right column and font sizes, etc.) while the Associate Editor of Content reads the article to make sure that article is copy edited correctly, is accurate, and well written. Finally, the EIC looks over the article for one last time and the digital paper is sent to the printer. The process is part of an “intentionally established system of abstract rules [that] governs official decisions and actions,” a trait of a bureaucratic system (Scott and Davis 49).slide21

 

Tune in soon for Part Two of my series.

 

 Sources

Davis, W. Richard Scott and Gerald F. Organizations and Organizing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson , 2007.

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4 Responses

  1. Evan,

    Can you please add something at the beginning or end of the posts that refers to the cat that they are linked.

    Like part X of y in a series? And can you then also link to next (you can get a permanent URL for every post on the blog)? This is so if a reader finds it out of order, they can read more.

  2. I just saw you did that for part two. That is fine.

  3. […] in Hong …Organizational Cultu… on Cultural Differences: McDonald…Newspapers: Have the… on Dad, what’s […]

  4. Who says what is “possible” for the Bucknellian? Is its mission really clearer than the NY Times’?

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