Study Finds Size and Nature of Community Influence International Staffing at Newspapers

While one would expect newspapers serving ethnically diverse communities and communities with a large number of international businesses to be staffed by foreign news experts, this is only true if the community itself is large.

In small communities, ethnic diversity and the international nature of the community have no impact on the newspaper's decision to staff its international news desk with people with special training in the topic.

This is one of the findings of a study of the expertise daily newspapers employ to help them present international news to their readers. The study was conducted by researchers in the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research and presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research in Chicago in November.

The paper was presented by Dr. Wilson Lowrey, a faculty member in the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University, Cox Center Director Dr. Lee B. Becker, and Aswin Punathambekar, a graduate student in the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College. The study on newspaper expertise was conducted when Dr. Lowrey was a doctoral student working with Dr. Becker in the Cox Center.

Punathambekar and Todd Fraley, another graduate student in the Grady College, also presented a paper at the conference on the application of the focus group methodology on the Internet. Mr. Fraley worked in the Cox Center in the summer of 2000.

The paper by Punathambekar and Fraley received an honorable mention in the MAPOR Fellow Student Paper Competition, it was announced at the conference. Dr. Becker, a recipient of the MAPOR Fellow Award in 1996, announced the winners of the competition during the annual scientific meeting, which was held November 17 and 18. Jennifer Oats-Sargent from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign was the top paper winner.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, a visiting research scientist in the Cox Center, moderated a session on Presidency & the Public Opinion at the MAPOR conference. Dr. Vlad is a faculty member at Babes Bolyai University in Romania.

Dr. Becker also participated in a session at conference honoring Dr. Jack M. McLeod, who announced his retirement from the faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin effective at the end of 2000. Dr. McLeod was Dr. Becker's major professor at the University of Wisconsin.

The research on community influence on newspaper hiring in the area of international news is part of a larger research project in the Cox Center on how expertise is used in newsrooms.