Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

David R. Davies

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Fei Xue

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Christopher Campbell

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Cheryl Jenkins

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Vanessa Murphree

Committee Member 5 School



From the earliest days of the American democracy, one of the key tenets of the new government was rule by an informed electorate. This notion of rule of the people, by the people, for the people was established in the first article of the United States Constitution when the houses of Congress were carefully designed, and the idea of a knowledgeable constituency was emphasized in the first amendment when among such basic freedoms as speech, religion and assembly was freedom of the press.

Newspapers in America have changed significantly since the writing of that constitution, but most particularly in the last five decades through concentrated ownership, economic pressures, and encroaching media competition, spurring an imperative question of whether these changes have been for the betterment of the profession and its function in a democratic society. Under the current corporate business model in journalism, content has continued to change in a desperate bid to seek larger audiences and boost plummeting media stock values. Based on this behavior, many scholars claim that business interests are completely overwhelming the public interest.

Looking at modern industry research, it’s easy to overlook the community level impact of media behavior within the national data. By selecting and evaluating a community newspaper that mirrors the industry trends in ownership and operation, parallels can be drawn between the community newspaper and the industry while also closely assessing the impact of changes in the newsgathering process, the journalists who seek out and write the news and ultimately the news product itself.

This study provides a rare look into the perspectives of current and former journalists from one south Mississippi newsroom from 1986 to 2018, a time when some of the most accelerated changes have occurred in their industry. Following 34 interviews with reporters, photographers, editors, and publishers from the current and past days of The Sun Herald newspaper in Biloxi, Mississippi, this project unveils the learned opinions and observations of journalists regarding their profession. Clearly identifying the mistaken goals of modern news enterprises, this set of journalists calls for a return to responsible reporting over corporate profits.