Newspapers with a partisan aim filling the void of traditional media (2023)

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Pennsylvania’s most widely circulated newspaper showed up, without fanfare or explanation, in the mailboxes of about 1 in every 5 households in the state this April.

A 12-page tabloid with a circulation of 953,000, it has arrived every month since, with articles from the Associated Press, crosswords, recipes and useful updates on which nearby towns had the lowest gas prices. But nowhere in its pages does it disclose its true mission.

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The Pennsylvania Independent is, in fact, a new sort of political-journalism hybrid becoming more popular on the left — just one part of a quiet four-state, $28 million election year effort by the liberal-leaning American Independent Foundation and partner groups aimed at swaying voters in the midterm elections.

Only the articles offer a clue of the underlying intent: A piece in the October issue described the opposition to “any gun safety measures” by “New Jersey resident” Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania. Other stories detailed President Biden’s domestic manufacturing initiative, Republican denials of the 2020 election results and a proposal for a national abortion ban by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

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“All of the reporting that we put in the papers is fact-checked and verified,” said Jessica McCreight, a former Democratic consultant who serves as executive editor of the operation. “It just so happens that it is Republicans doing bad things and Democrats doing good things.”

The Independent has quietly positioned itself on the edge of an emerging and controversial industry fueled by ideological donors who are looking to further political agendas with the trappings of old-fashioned journalism, down to the ornate Gothic nameplate fonts.

As local newspapers have collapsed amid a rise in online advertising competition, niche news products with private funding sources have sprouted to fill the void. Some, like the American Independent network of papers, function as a sort of direct mail persuasion piece, while others republish and repurpose content on hundreds of websites with hyperlocal names like the Fond Du Lac Times in Wisconsin and the Boulder Leader in Colorado. Additional experiments have sought to build actual newsrooms in key swing states to attract audiences to more ideological views.

The new journalism — and the PR firms behind it

The projects have alarmed journalism educators, who worry that the newcomers deceive readers, undermine the reputations of existing journalistic brands, and fail, in some cases, to meet even the basic standards of the professions, like revealing conflicts of interest or seeking out multiple perspectives on contested issues.

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Peter Adams, the senior vice president at the News Literacy Project, a group that has partnered with The Washington Post on educational programs, says products like the Independent need to be called out.

“It is one thing if you have a political purpose and you are being upfront about that. It’s another if you are trying on the trappings of standards-based institutional local media that aspires to serve the public interest,” Adams said. “It is unethical. And it is clearly designed to co-opt the credibility of what we have always known as the press.”

Progressive defenders of the projects, however, argue that they are legitimate attempts to build an unapologetic media ecosystem to counter the prominence of conservative news.

One relatively fresh news operation, the Courier Newsroom, founded by former Democratic operative Tara McGowan, has built online news websites in eight presidential swing states, with about 70 journalists who cover a broad range of subject matter, while disclosing major donors. Another set of online communities, PushBlack and Pulso, which have been supported by the nonprofit media lab Accelerate Change, seek to re-create the spirit of ethnic media outlets, with regular posts about cultural pride and concerns, mixed in civic-engagement efforts, including information on how to “confirm your voting status.”

Dmitri Mehlhorn, the co-founder of Investing in US, an investment fund backed by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, says the new operations are necessary and effective.

“You end up funding things like The American Independent and Courier and PushBlack at the end of a long decision tree, where you are looking for ways to fight disinformation,” Mehlhorn said. “We believe at this point that you have to have your news be objective, and that is not consistent with pretending to be nonpartisan.”

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On the right, a conservative network called Local Government Information Services funds a network of local online publications in Illinois, supported by 11 regional print editions mailed to homes. Others, like the liberal Local Report and hundreds of sites run by the conservative Metric Media, embrace hyperlocal website news branding, often with content that is little more than repurposed and unfiltered content, with bylines that read “Press release submission.”

Copies of one of Metric Media’s properties, The Grand Canyon Times, have arrived in mailboxes in Arizona, filled with positive stories about Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters and aggregated information about high school sports. Recipients have posted images on Twitter of a disclaimer on the paper that reads “Paid for by Saving America PAC,” a group supporting Masters’s election bid. Metric Media and Local Government Information Services did not respond to requests for comment.

Since spring, the American Independent Foundation, a nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, has been mailing 3.2 million monthly newspapers into households that have been selected because they contain ideologically moderate and progressive female voters, according to McCreight.

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That gives the brand a print circulation larger than the top 25 print daily newspapers in the nation combined, as measured by the Alliance for Audited Media. In addition to Pennsylvania, about 1.1 million households in Michigan and nearly 600,000 households each in Wisconsin and Ohio have been receiving issues.

Margaret Sullivan: Beware the partisan 'pink slime' sites that pose as local news

“Ron Johnson made millions from China Connection,” ran the cover headline of a recent Wisconsin edition, referring to the incumbent GOP senator’s investment in an Oshkosh-based plastics firm, where he previously worked and which has a parent company with business in China. “Billion-dollar electric vehicle production plant opening in Ohio thanks to Biden,” read another headline in that state. A Michigan edition led with good news about the Democratic governor: “WHITMER BRINGS TECH INVESTMENT HOME TO MICHIGAN.”

The operation, with 13 writers and six editors, is run in concert with American Bridge, the largest Democratic opposition research group. Oliver Willis, a former top writer for Media Matters for America, the liberal media watchdog, works as the publication’s senior writer. Matt Fuehrmeyer, a former director of research at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, serves as the group’s president.

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David Brock, a founder of Bridge and Media Matters who helped set up the Independent, said the idea for a newsprint program grew out of research that showed high trust for local news, particularly among women.

“Independent women are not cable news junkies. They are on Facebook but they don’t trust it. The thing they trusted from the survey that we did was local print news,” he said. “This is in the tradition of advocacy journalism. It is coming from a center-left point of view. We are trying to shed light on actors who are standing in the way of progress.”

During the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election, the American Independent ran a test to see if the newspapers mailed to voter homes could change behavior. Surveys after the election by True Blue Media compared the behavior of people who had been mailed the paper and a similar group of voters who had not. The test found that newspaper recipients were 2.2 percent more likely than the control group to support Biden and 6.3 percent more likely to vote for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor, McCreight said.

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The Independent plans another round of testing after the midterms to see how well the newspapers performed in motivating voters to go to the polls. The hope, said McCreight, is to hire more staff in advance of the 2024 elections.

“It’s reminiscent of a bygone era,” she said. “We want to build on that trust to keep this going for a long time to come.”

The Independent’s political approach has not been embraced by other progressive media upstarts. At the Courier, McGowan has gone to extensive lengths to try to earn journalistic credibility for her newsrooms, which publish on sites with names like UpNorthNews in Wisconsin and The Gander in Michigan.

Their coverage is far broader than just election news, though McGowan does do tests to see if there are effects on voting behavior among her readership. Before the primaries in Iowa this year, she bought ads to push content to potential Democratic voters from the Iowa Starting Line, her publication in that state. After the election, as first reported by Wired magazine, she tested whether the people targeted had voted at higher rates than those who were not, concluding that the content had helped to drive thousands of votes.

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But McGowan says her operation is not focused on electoral results. The operation’s mission statement sets a different goal: “to protect and strengthen our democracy through credible, fact-based journalism that seeks to create a more informed, engaged, and representative America.”

“Building long-term trust and engagement with our audience is our highest priority; it’s why we disclose our funding sources, why we hire reporters who live in the communities they serve, and it’s why we have built a growing community of nearly 1 million subscribers who engage with our newsrooms year-round,” McGowan said in a statement.

“In a time where trust in media and institutions are on a rapid decline, any media efforts that portray themselves to be something they are not in the interest of short-term political gain are doing more harm than good,” she added.

correction

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Tara McGowan, the founder of the Courier Newsroom. It has been corrected.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Georgia runoff election: A runoff between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker on Dec. 6 will cap a turbulent election year. Here’s how the runoff will work and a look at Warnock and Walker’s paths to victory.

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, experts helped us game out what would happen if he wins again.

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FAQs

How are print newspapers responding to the decline of subscribers? ›

In response, major newspapers have made considerable changes. They're attempting to combat diminishing reader interest by shortening stories, adding commentary, and most notably, using social media to their advantage.

What are articles in a newspaper? ›

A news article discusses current or recent news of either general interest (i.e. daily newspapers) or of a specific topic (i.e. political or trade news magazines, club newsletters, or technology news websites). A news article can include accounts of eyewitnesses to the happening event.

Which of the following best describes the political functions of mass media? ›

Which of the following best describes the political functions of mass media? They help us interpret events and developments.

What is the party press era? ›

The American press grew rapidly during the First Party System (1790s-1810s) when both parties sponsored papers to reach their loyal partisans. From the 1830s onward, the Penny press began to play a major role in American journalism.

Why are newspapers declining as a source of news? ›

In response to falling ad revenues and plunging circulation, many newspapers have cut staff as well as editorial content, and in a vicious cycle, those cuts often spur more and deeper circulation declines—triggering more loss of ad revenues.

How is new media different from traditional media? ›

The way it is distributed: Traditional media is distributed through channels such as television and radio, while new media is often distributed online. The way it is accessed: Traditional media is typically accessed through broadcast or print, while new media is often accessed through digital channels.

What is the main purpose of newspaper? ›

News articles are written to inform and educate readers on current affairs/events. They are used to provide readers with information they need/want to know about the world around them.

What are types of newspaper? ›

Types of Newspapers
  • Daily: Published daily. Examples include The Sun and New York Post.
  • Semi-Weekly: Published twice weekly, such as Lagniappe Newspaper.
  • Triweekly: Published three times every week. For example, the Bismarck Tribune.
  • Weekly: Published every week. ...
  • Biweekly: Published once every two weeks.
12 Feb 2022

What is the function of a newspaper? ›

To inform. To interpret the news. To provide a service to readers. To entertain.

Which of the following are examples of traditional media? ›

Traditional media include radio, broadcast television, cable and satellite, print, and billboards.

What is mass media explain the role of media in democracy? ›

The media has given political parties the tools to reach large numbers of people and inform them on key issues ranging from policies to elections. The media can be seen as an enabler for democracy; having better-educated voters would lead to a more legitimate government.

In what ways does the media play an important role in a democracy? ›

The media plays a very important role in a democracy in providing news and discussing events taking place in the country and the world. It is on the basis of this information that citizens can, for example, learn how government works. And often, if they wish to, they can take action on the basis of these news stories.

Why is it called the press? ›

The term press comes from the printing press of Johannes Gutenberg in the sixteenth century and which, from the eighteenth century, was used to print newspapers, then the only existing journalistic vehicles.

When did newspapers become popular? ›

Newspapers flourished, dramatically, in early nineteenth-century America. By the 1830s the United States had some 900 newspapers, about twice as many as Great Britain—and had more newspaper readers, too.

What were newspapers called in the 1800s? ›

Shortly after the launch of the first African American and Native American newspapers, the first inexpensive daily newspapers began to appear These newspapers, called “penny papers”, further expanded the newspaper audience, and are the subject of the next tutorial.

What are the biggest challenges facing newspapers today? ›

It was discovered that the print media in the country is dwarfed by challenges such as funding, digitalization, and its elitist nature.

Why are newspapers not important today? ›

Another big advantage that newspapers have is the fact that it can be one source of information. Instead of having to search out multiple web sites to find information, readers of a newspaper can instead have all of the day's information right at their fingertips and read to their heart's content.

Are newspapers still important? ›

Newspapers deliver the world each day with an immediate and powerful impact. 2. Print publications serve as critical filters, guiding us to the most important, relevant and authoritative sources.

Why new media is more popular than traditional media? ›

Digital media offers a quicker way to rectify a mistake as it is easier to access the internet. Traditional forms of media, on the other hand, do not provide such advantages, as articles or advertisements in newspapers and televisions once published tend to be final and cannot be changed immediately.

What is meaning of traditional media? ›

Any form of mass communication available before the advent of digital media. This includes television, radio, newspapers, books, and magazines.

What is the importance of newspaper essay? ›

It conveys the public opinion to the people on important issues. This will, in turn, help people review the government and ministers well. Similarly, people get great employment opportunities from newspapers. Those seeking jobs look through newspapers to get reliable job opportunities.

What is the most important thing in a newspaper? ›

News Article

Typically, newspaper articles that appear closest to the front page or within the first section are those that editors consider to be the most important and relevant to their readers.

Why newspaper is the best source of information? ›

Because newspapers also contain commentaries or retrospective articles about events, they can also serve as a secondary source. Whether used as a primary or a secondary source, newspapers can provide a valuable research tool.

What is newspaper called? ›

gazette. noun. used in the names of newspapers.

What is newspaper example? ›

Examples include The Sun, The National Enquirer, The Star Magazine, New York Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, and The Globe.

What is the name of a newspaper? ›

Top 10 newspapers by circulation
NewspaperPrimary service areaCirculation
USA TodayNational1,621,091
The Wall Street JournalNew York metropolitan area1,011,200
The New York TimesNew York metropolitan area483,701
New York PostNew York metropolitan area426,129
6 more rows

What is a newspaper short answer? ›

A newspaper is a publication printed on paper and issued regularly, usually once a day or once a week. It gives information and opinions written by journalists about current events and news.

Why is newspaper important in society? ›

According to the American Press Institute website, “the purpose and importance of journalism is to inform society with the information they need to live their lives. Information that they need to make decisions about different things.”

Is newspaper example of traditional media? ›

Traditional media includes all outlets that existed before the internet, such as newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and billboards.

Why is it called traditional media? ›

The non electronic mediums which works as part of our culture and as vehicles of transmitting tradition from one generation to another generation is called traditional media.

Why is traditional media important? ›

Traditional media remain a trusted source for information. When it comes to the news, there is no substitute for a factual, balanced story.

What is media in what ways does the media play an important role in a democracy explain with examples Class 7? ›

Answer: Media play an important role in democracy in the following ways: They make the masses know about certain issues/problems. They propagate the policies and programmes of the government. They also criticise the unpopular policies and programmes of the government.

What is the role that social media could play in a democratic society? ›

Social media, or more specifically news media- plays an important role in democratic societies because they allow for participation among citizens. Therefore, when it comes to healthy democratic networks, it is crucial that that news remains true so it doesn't affect citizens' levels of trust.

What effect does social media have on democracy? ›

Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google hold the potential to alter civic engagement, thus essentially hijacking democracy, by influencing individuals toward a particular way of thinking.

Why do you think media affect the norms of the people in the society? ›

In the individual effect, media information about new norms may persuade individuals to accept them. In the social effect, the information creates common knowledge of a norm and enhances social coordination as individuals more readily accept the information if they believe others have also accepted it.

What is the role of the media in society? ›

In democracies, the media is fundamental to political life. It provides facts to allow us to be better informed about the issues that matter to us. It provides criticism and debate to ensure that that information is tested and examined from all points of view.

What do you mean by an independent media Why is it important for the media to be independent? ›

An independent media means that no one should control and influence its coverage of news. No one should tell the media what can be included and what should not be included in a news story. It means that the media should not be under any one's pressure. It will be totally independent.

What is the full meaning of press? ›

: the gathering and publishing or broadcasting of news : journalism. : newspapers, periodicals, and often radio and television news broadcasting.

What are the media types? ›

Modern media comes in many different formats, including print media (books, magazines, newspapers), television, movies, video games, music, cell phones, various kinds of software, and the Internet. Each type of media involves both content, and also a device or object through which that content is delivered.

What was the first newspaper called? ›

Scholars commonly credit the ancient Romans with publishing the first newspaper, Acta Diurna, or daily doings, in 59 BCE. Although no copies of this paper have survived, it is widely believed to have published chronicles of events, assemblies, births, deaths, and daily gossip.

Who started newspaper first? ›

In 1609, Johann Carolus published the first regular newspaper in Strassburg, comprising brief news bulletins. By the 1620s, numerous major cities had newspapers of 4 to 8 pages appearing at irregular intervals; all were strictly censored. The first daily newspaper appeared in 1660 in Leipzig.

Why do you think newspapers are called print media? ›

Newspapers is known as Print media because they come to the general public in printed form, hard copy.

When did the partisan press era take place? ›

Prior to the 1830s, a majority of US newspapers were aligned with a political party or platform. Political parties would sponsor anonymous political figures in The Federal Republican and Daily Gazette. This was called partisan press and was not unbiased in opinion.

How did newspapers become mass media? ›

Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press enabled the mass production of media, which was then industrialized by Friedrich Koenig in the early 1800s. These innovations led to the daily newspaper, which united the urbanized, industrialized populations of the 19th century.

What were Roman newspapers called? ›

Acta Diurna (Latin: Daily Acts, sometimes translated as Daily Public Records or poetically as Daily Gazette) were daily Roman official notices, a sort of daily gazette. They were carved on stone or metal and presented in message boards in public places such as the Forum of Rome. They also were called simply Acta.

What is the main reason for the decline in the number of newspapers published? ›

A number of factors have caused a decline in the number and profitability of newspapers. Among these are the loss of much classified advertising and severe drops in circulation. Classified advertising used to be a significant source of revenue for newspapers especially for jobs, real estate, and vehicles.

What challenges are print media currently facing? ›

Traditional print media face the dilemma of reduced circulation, decreased communication power and influence, and a shrinking advertising business, which makes print media face unprecedented pressure to survive.

Is print readers declining? ›

Audience. The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2020 was 24.3 million for weekday and 25.8 million for Sunday, each down 6% from the previous year – though with some caveats, as detailed below and in a new Decoded post.

Why is the print industry declining? ›

In the coming decades, the printing industry is predicted to struggle as digital media continues to replace traditional paper products. As a result, experts forecast a decline in industry revenue.

In what ways are newspapers lowering the barrier between writing and advertising? ›

In what ways are newspapers lowering the barrier between writing and advertising? 1) To make more money, papers are asking writers to promote products instead of news. 2) Some news departments answer to sales managers rather than editors.

What are the major challenges facing the newspaper industry? ›

This paper identifies some of the major problems such as inadequate funding, unethical conducts on the part of practitioners, issues of overbearing media owners, harsh economic conditions as well as the challenge posed by the new media that is mainly internet driven among others.

What are the challenges of traditional media? ›

Cons:
  • Long lead times. Unable to deliver your message immediately.
  • High CPM for mass audience advertising.
  • Heavy advertising clutter – often half of a magazine is advertising.
  • Poor local coverage.
  • Can't deliver your message with a high frequency.
21 Feb 2017

Is print media still useful Why or why not? ›

Not only has it stood the test of time, but people appreciate print media for its comfort, relevance, and privacy while reading it. Unlike digital media, print is tactile and personal. You can also customize the print to meet unique requirements not available with digital media.

How does print media influence the society? ›

Perceptions on Politics/World Events.

Printed media has had a major impact on how people view politics and world events. Many people will blindly follow what is printed in the newspaper about specific areas and events. Even if it is one small story people tend to believe that is how the whole area should be perceived.

What is the future of newspaper in the digital age? ›

Due to the digital newspaper, readers can search for the latest jobs available in the industry. Besides, they use the job requirements and search them online to make sure they get the job position. Nowadays, it has become much easier than ever to access many DIY articles and use them in their daily lives.

Do people still read newspapers? ›

According to a survey held in February 2022, just 12 percent of U.S. adults used newspapers as a daily news source. Meanwhile, over 40 percent reported never reading newspapers to keep them up to date, making them even less popular than radio.

How much has the newspaper industry declined? ›

Estimated Newspaper Publishers revenue dropped by 52.0%.

Are newspapers in decline? ›

For roughly two decades, the state of the newspaper industry has been facing a steady decline. A dramatic drop in readership, loss of ad revenue and the emergence of other forms of media have posed major challenges for many legacy print media publications.

Will newspapers go out of business or become only digital? ›

Print is still the second-largest advertising medium in India, but is likely to be overtaken by digital in 2021. While newspapers dominate print media, accounting for 96% of the sector, they will not dominate digital.

Why do newspapers still exist? ›

Newspapers make information accessible to a diverse audience. In Washington, D.C., New York and other major cities, it is easy to forget that not every American has a smartphone, tablet, computer or convenient Internet access. For those who don't, print media still provide an essential window to the world.

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