Marketing the news: A paradigm shift in journalistic practices
Today's journalists face an array of challenges in an effort to perform their jobs while maintaining professional codes and keeping their target readers in mind. In a craft that has traditionally functioned on social responsibility, this can at times be a daunting task, as journalists face understanding, accepting, and utilizing marketing practices. Editors and reporters at newspapers across America have incorporated marketing goals, determined through market research, into reporting assignments. Journalists must consider the reader's likes, dislikes, hobbies, age, income, sex, civic belonging and other interests when reporting a story. These practices are now the norm and considered to make good business and journalistic sense. However, the newspaper as a marketing-driven niche product changes the craft in many ways, including finding a balance between reporters' views of their responsibilities and the editors' expectations. This national study expanded upon the degree to which target marketing practices affect reporting assignments by focusing on five trends: target marketing, visuals, reader utility and entertainment values, civic/public/community journalism practices, profit expectations as they affect hiring reporters and spending based on the time and cost to cover a story. Statements about these areas were designed to gather information about reporting assignments as they are influenced by these trends. Previous studies have suggested that newsrooms are driven by marketing departments; however, a national study tracing these practices to reporting assignments had apparently not been done. Results of this national mail survey of stratified selected samples suggest that executive editors and managing/news editors agreed that all five areas are now incorporated into daily reporting assignments. Reporters keep target audiences in mind, gather information for visual elements, strive to meet the readers' needs for utility and entertainment, incorporate civic/public/community journalism in daily reporting, and are limited on cost and time to cover stories. When combined with previous research, these practices suggest a paradigm shift in journalistic practices, from objective and observational, to interpretative and participatory.