Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


Date of this Version



Published in Grassroots Editor: A Journal for Newspeople 19:4 (Winter 1978), pp. 12–14. Copyright © 1978 Ronald T. Farrar and Will Norton, Jr. Grassroots Editor is published by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.


Newspaper readership is in decline throughout the country. Circulation, though increasing, is not increasing as rapidly as new households are being created. People who do buy newspapers seem to spend less and less time reading them. There is, in short, profoundly serious competition for the reader's time and the advertiser's dollar, and a number of newspapers--notably afternoon newspapers in major markets--have been, or are being, overwhelmed.

One by-product of this struggle for readership has been the development by many publishers of a deep and respectful major metropolitan daily newspaper now employs a research director--or an expensive outside research consulting firm, or both--to engage in a systematic monitoring of reader reactions and attitudes. Such studies often lead directly to improved newspapers; indeed, it is at least arguable that many American newspaper products are more useful, livelier, and certainly more responsible than every before in their collective histories.

The purpose of this article is simply to suggest that intelligent newspaper research need not be limited to the metropolitan markets. Well conceived studies can be done for community newspapers with excellent results for relatively little money.