Conflict on campus: examining multiple levels of influence on investigative journalism in student newspapers

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University of Alabama Libraries

Community media is the media that is most immediate, as well as the media that is most trusted. In student media, journalists serve specialized communities in settings that can prove to be training grounds for the future of journalism. This research examined whether traditional measures that have been used in the study of communities — structural pluralism and social capital — can be applied to conflict-oriented role conceptions and role enactments of individuals working for student newspapers. The survey used a mixed-method approach, by surveying advisers and student editors to ask about social capital at multiple levels, and to ask which traditional journalistic role conceptions they believe are most important for journalists. The research then used a quantitative content analysis of the newspapers identified in the survey to analyze the stories for the presence or absence of conflict and investigation in the local news. Municipal structural pluralism emerged as a significant predictor of conflict reporting. Social capital between individuals working in student media and their administration negatively predicted conflict reporting, but social capital variables yielded little else that was statistically significant. Results indicated that level of pluralism of the school had no effect on the likelihood that campus media will embrace conflict roles or conflict reporting. Results also suggested that when student media are produced in in less pluralistic municipal communities (typically smaller towns), and where higher levels of social capital are reported, there is less likely to be an atmosphere in which student newspapers and those working for the papers embrace the reporting of conflict and investigation.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Mass communication, Journalism, Sociology