Advisor

Gerald Sussman

Date of Award

6-5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies

Department

Urban Studies

Physical Description

1 online resource (xiii, 199 pages)

Abstract

By virtue of their broadcast licenses, local television stations in the United States are bound to serve in the public interest of their community audiences. As federal regulations of those stations loosen and fewer owners increase their holdings across the country, however, local community needs are subjugated by corporate fiduciary responsibilities. Business practices reveal rampant consolidation of ownership, newsroom job description convergence, skilled human labor replaced by computer automation, and economically-driven downsizings, all in the name of profit. Even so, the people laboring under these conditions are expected to keep their communities informed with democracy- and citizenship-enhancing information.

This study uses a critical political economy framework to focus on the labor aspects of working in commercially-run local television newsrooms in the United States. Surveys and interviews with news workers from the 25 largest local television markets highlight the daily challenges of navigating the dichotomy of labor in the space between corporate profiteering and public enlightenment. In addition to their more well-known and well-studied on-air reporter and anchor peers, "behind the scenes" workers and those with newly converged job descriptions also share their news work stories, thus filling a gap in the literature. Corporate capital incentives affect all who gather and disseminate the news.

While all of these workers generally strive for high journalistic quality, the pressures of increased workloads and constant deadlines imposed by shrinking news staffs and growing digital media expectations mean journalists have to make craft work compromises in the race to report news faster and first. Owners push experienced news veterans with deep community connections out in favor of younger, cheaper, more tech-savvy workers. Financially beneficial content trumps deep policy investigations. These outcomes not only worry those in the journalistic trenches of local television news, but also potentially deprive the public of the information they seek from these outlets. As local television newsrooms remain the most popular sources of information for Americans, particularly in times of crisis, such outcomes are not in the community's best interest.

Available for download on Wednesday, June 05, 2019

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