Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version



Published in Grassroots Editor: A Journal for Newspeople 27:4 (Winter 1986), pp. 5, 14. Copyright © 1986 Paul Brooks, Will Norton, Jr., and John W. Windhauser. Grassroots Editor is published by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.


Newspaper editors often think of community leaders as being different from other newspaper readers. Such an assumption is supported with studies showing that opinion ' leaders have greater exposure to mass media than their followers and read different types of articles than do non-leaders.

But a recent study in Oxford, Miss., shows that media use patterns by leaders and non-leaders in a small rural community do not differ as much as previous studies seem to indicate. Perhaps the main reason that former studies reported vast differences in these two groups was the selection of opinion leaders. Earlier studies were skewed toward a selected type of leader and did not include all possible types. In our study we tried to include all possible types.

We identified community leaders in the rural Mississippi community of approximately 9,000 people by surveying the directors of 63 civic, social and fraternal organizations, and the complete memberships in 12 of those 63 groups. Respondents were asked to identify people in Oxford who were the most influential in health, industrial growth, business and trade, education, religion, recreation, community beautification, music and art, welfare and charity, and agriculture and forestry.