Cybernetic answer to who, what, where, when and how: Comparative analysis of online and print newspapers in Serbia, Great Britain, and the United States

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Petrovic, Jelena
Dooley, Patricia L.

The number of online newspapers has increased more than 50% since 2003. Meanwhile, print newspapers’ circulation has declined in North America and most of Europe. Since their first appearance in the early 1990s, online newspapers have attracted the attention of both newspaper professionals and researchers because of their potential impact on the news, business models, and readers. This thesis studies how far online newspapers in Serbia, Great Britain and the United States have progressed in their development of a news genre distinct from their print parents. Built on the premises of genre theory, the thesis tests the applicability of Shepherd and Waters’ (1998) classification of news cybergenres. Its methods include quantitative content analysis of 223 online newspaper front pages and a survey of online news personnel. The results suggest that online newspapers in these three countries share many characteristics with print newspapers, especially in terms of their content and form. The biggest difference between the three sample groups is their use of various functionality elements that promote readers’ active involvement in the news communication process. Overall, online newspapers adoption of many of the Web’s unique tools is affecting traditional journalistic practices. While they maintain their agenda‐setting function, there are signs that newspapers’ gatekeeping role is changing into gate opening. Striking differences between overall cultures and newspaper traditions in these three countries provide an additional interpretation of the results, which surpasses technological deterministic explanations.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Elliot School of Communication