The experiences of Mississippi weekly newspaper editors as they explore and consider producing Internet editions

Cassandra Denise Johnson

Abstract

This dissertation focused on the challenges Mississippi weekly newspaper editors faced when deciding to have an online edition and the issues these editors encountered when they adopted a Web newspaper. The study expounded on four areas--the operational changes weekly newspapers have had to make to produce Web editions, the different type of newsroom staff that are needed to create both editions, the content that is going in the online edition, and the financial pressures that editors work through to keep the newspapers profitable. The study was modeled after similar studies from three organizations--the Pew Research Center, the Bivings Group, and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). The researcher conducted a sequential mixed-methods research process involving a survey, interviews, and a case study among Mississippi weekly newspaper editors. This current study suggests that Mississippi weekly newspapers have not experienced the innovation with Internet newspapers that participants in the aforementioned studies had. In fact, results indicate that Mississippi weekly editors can be divided into three categories based on their experiences with Internet editions. A large group of weekly newspaper editors still do not have an Internet edition, nor do they intend to ever have one. The biggest group of editors has scaled back Internet versions that are merely cut-and-paste replicas of their printed newspapers. The smallest group has found creative ways to present news content online and to make money from the Web editions. Mississippi weekly editors also insisted that daily newspaper editors should follow their pattern of producing news if the daily editors want their newspapers to survive. Results also explain that Mississippi weeklies are not doing any more than they ever have in the way that they produce news and that weekly newspapers are in a better position than daily papers to survive financially. Based on these findings, directions for future scholarly research in this area are presented.