Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the Supervision of Professor Linda Shipley. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2011

Copyright (c) 2011 Burton C. Speakman


Believability and accuracy of print and online news is studied via the comments of newspaper readers of a small Texas community. The readers of the Normangee Star were chosen to be the survey recipients to learn if readers in a small community had the same attitude about their local newspaper that national surveys have indicated exist about newspapers in general. The expectation was that those who read more news online would consider their local paper to be less believable and accurate than those who read little to no news online. Surveys were mailed to 200 subscribers of the Star, and an online survey was posted on the Star’s website and Facebook page. Fifty print surveys were returned and one person responded to the survey online. Two focus groups were conducted in the Star’s coverage area.

This study showed that readers of the Normangee Star believe their newspaper is more accurate than the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Houston Chronicle and the New York Times. Results further indicated those who read more than 15 minutes of news online per day believed the Star to be less accurate and less believable than those who read less news online. Differences in the believability and accuracy rankings were greater when the other three newspapers were considered. Star readers who spent more than 15 minutes reading news online per day were more skeptical about the Eagle, Chronicle and Times than those who read less than 15 minutes. The Star’s readers gave the newspaper very high believability and accuracy ratings. Star reader’s views differ from national trends. National surveys showed low credibility ratings for all forms of media with declines over the last decade until there was a small increase in 2010 results. Future research should examine both subscribers to other newspapers and nonsubscribers in rural areas to determine if the believability ratings in national studies are indicative of the public’s attitudes simply toward larger media outlets and not the newspaper industry overall.

Advisor: Linda Shipley