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AEJMC  September 1997, Week 4

AEJMC September 1997, Week 4

Subject:

AEJ 97 SandersC MCS Public relations behavior of newspaper ombudsmen

From:

Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 23 Sep 1997 08:07:01 EDT

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (711 lines)

PUBLIC INFORMATION AND PUBLIC DIALOGUES:
AN ANALYSIS OF THE PUBLIC RELATIONS BEHAVIOR
OF NEWSPAPER OMBUDSMEN
 
 
Abstract
 
 
        In this content analysis of the public columns of American newspaper ombudsmen
we found the dominant role performed by ombudsmen was a one-way form of
communication, usually explaining the newspaper's behavior. This often occurred
in tandem with two-way forms of communication, usually allowing the public to
comment on the newspaper's performance.
        To varying degrees, ombudsmen allow the public to scrutinize the newspaper's
performance. This facilitates a limited public dialogue about the newspaper's
performance.
Ombudsmen Roles
Page
 
PUBLIC INFORMATION AND PUBLIC DIALOGUES:
AN ANALYSIS OF THE PUBLIC RELATIONS BEHAVIOR
OF NEWSPAPER OMBUDSMEN
 
 
 
        Journalists and scholars have long debated whose interests a newspaper
ombudsman serves when responding to public concerns about a newspaper's
performance. Critics say ombudsmen are little more than a public relations
gimmick that primarily serves the newspaper's interest.[1] Supporters say
ombudsmen serve the public interest by airing public concerns about a
newspaper's behavior, which may be a catalyst for changes in journalistic
behavior.[2]
        There is evidence that public relations-type activities are universal among
ombudsmen.[3] But does this mean that the ombudsman's public relations
activities serve the newspaper's interests to the exclusion of the public
interest?
        This is a study of the public relations behavior in the public columns of
American newspaper ombudsmen. Although a column is just one way that ombudsmen
interact with the public, it is one of the most visible ombudsman activities and
the one most likely to reach the largest audience.
        Using the Gruning and Hunt theory of public relations roles,[4] we conducted a
content analysis of ombudsmen columns in order to examine the public relations
behavior of ombudsmen as revealed by their columns.
        We found the dominant role performed by ombudsmen in their columns is a one-way
form of communication, usually explaining the newspaper's behavior. Yet this
often occurred in tandem with two-way forms of communication, which involved
allowing the public to comment on the newspaper's performance.
        The public relations dimension of an ombudsman's behavior is more complex than
has been shown in previous studies of ombudsmen's behavior. To varying degrees,
the ombudsmen we studied allowed the public to scrutinize the newspaper's
performance. In a limited way, this facilitates a public dialogue about the
newspaper's performance even if the ombudsman firmly controls the channel of
communication in which the dialogue occurs.
Background
        The modern ombudsman movement began during a time when American newspapers were
trying to be more responsive to public concerns about press performance.[5] In
1967, the late A.H. Raskin, then an assistant editorial page editor at The New
York Times, proposed that newspapers create a department of internal
criticism.[6] Raskin's proposal had two role dimensions: (1) A media critic who
would scrutinize the fairness and adequacy of the newspaper's coverage and
comment. (2) An ombudsman who would have the authority to get something done
about valid reader complaints.[7]
        Shortly after Raskin's column appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the
Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal and Louisville Times appointed an ombudsman.[8]
        The ombudsman concept dates to 1809 when the Swedish parliament created a
"citizen's protector" who served as a check against unfair governmental
administrative decisions. Swedish ombudsmen were impartial investigators who
were officers of the legislature and had been granted political independence.
Although they lacked the authority to alter administrative decisions, ombudsmen
offered an inexpensive and swift means of handling appeals of administrative
decisions.[9]
        Swedish ombudsmen and newspaper ombudsmen are similar in that both solicit
public comment and investigate complaints. Unlike Swedish ombudsmen, newspaper
ombudsmen are employed by the organization whose behavior they are appointed to
monitor. Newspaper ombudsmen generally lack the authority to seek redress on
behalf of complainants. Their investigative authority tends to be proscribed and
limited to spotlighting problems that management will, presumably, resolve.[10]
        Since the Louisville newspapers appointed an ombudsman 30 years ago,
researchers have examined the slow acceptance of the ombudsman concept by the
newspaper industry,[11] how ombudsmen are viewed by the staff of the newspaper
they serve,[12] an ombudsman's duties,[13] public reaction to newspapers that
employ an ombudsman,[14] the influence of an ombudsman upon journalists'
attitudes,[15] the role orientations of ombudsmen,[16] and the use of an
ombudsman to manage disputes with readers.[17]
        Ombudsmen are reluctant to describe their work as encompassing public relations
activities.[18] Lou Gelfand, the reader representative of the Minneapolis Star
Tribune once commented, "We are not PR people. We may come from management, but
that [public relations] is not our job."[19]
        However, Ettema and Glasser's study of the role orientations of ombudsmen
concluded that an ombudsman's work is a model of contemporary public relations
practice.[20] They wrote that ombudsmen are "discouraged by their superiors,
their peers, or their own value system from explicitly acknowledging that role
[public relations]."[21]
        This reluctance probably stems from the fact that many journalists view public
relations practitioners with disdain.[22] Journalists also tend to see
themselves as superior to public relations practitioners.[23]
        Public relations is an elusive term to define. Many definitions focus on
tactics and techniques used by practitioners. Contemporary public relations
textbooks, however, emphasize public relations as a process involving planning,
research, communication and evaluation.[24]
        Historically, public relations practice involved one-way forms of
communication, often using the mass media to disseminate messages about an
organization to a general audience.[25] Increasingly, public relations practice
involves two-way forms of communication with organizations soliciting public
opinion and using the findings to create public relations programs.[26]
Modern public relations practice is considered to be the management of
communication between an organization and the public, working toward the goal of
mutual understanding.[27]
        The Gruning and Hunt theory classifies public relations behavior into four
models -- press agentry, public information, two-way asymmetrical and two-way
symmetrical.[28] The theory is built on concepts of synchronic (asymmetrical)
and diachronic (symmetrical) communication. Synchronic communication seeks to
synchronize the public's behavior with an organization so the organization can
behave as it desires without interference.[29]
        Diachronic communication seeks mutually beneficial conditions for the public
and the organization alike. This may involve changing an organization's
behavior.[30]
        The press agentry and public information models describe one-way forms of
communication. Organizations practicing these models disseminate information to
the public. The two-way asymmetrical and two-way symmetrical models describe
two-way forms of communication. Organizations practicing these models exchange
information with the public.[31]
         Often associated with propaganda, press agentry is an advocacy form of
communication in which truth is not essential. By contrast, public information
involves truthful dissemination of information.[32] The public information model
is sometimes described as "journalists in residence" because messages reflect
such traditional journalistic values as objectivity, accuracy and easy
readability.[33]
        Practitioners of two-way asymmetrical and two-way symmetrical models rely on
research of public attitudes to formulate public relations programs. The two-way
asymmetrical model uses research data to develop messages most likely to
persuade the public to behave as the organization wants.[34]
        The two-way symmetrical model also uses research data to help formulate
messages, but the organization's goal is to promote mutual understanding. An
organization might change its behavior to bring that about.[35]
        Press agentry, public information and two-way asymmetrical are synchronic
models because they leave an organization unchanged. The two-way symmetrical
model is diachronic, seeking to adjust relationships between an organization and
the public.[36]
        Adapting the Gruning and Hunt theory to a study of newspaper ombudsmen poses
some problems. Ombudsmen do not consider themselves to be public relations
practitioners and operate under a different value system than practitioners.
Messages created by public relations practitioners need the approval of an
organization's management. However, ombudsmen create and disseminate messages
without much direct management oversight.
        This is not to say ombudsmen have complete independence. Many editors fear an
ombudsman's public and private criticisms may create staff morale problems.[37]
Therefore some newspapers have restricted the scope of the ombudsman's mandate
to criticize, in some cases putting certain topics off limits.[38]
        Ombudsmen who anger their newspaper's management may face harsh
consequences.[39] A Canadian ombudsman was fired after refusing to apologize for
his criticism of his newspaper's news judgment.[40] An ombudsman at the St.
Petersburg Times resigned rather than apologize for her criticism of how the
paper assigned reporters to cover a race riot.[41]
        Nonetheless, the Gruning and Hunt theory is a useful tool for studying how
ombudsmen manage the communication between the public and their newspaper. We
wanted to show in this study a sharper, more accurate picture of what ombudsmen
do in their public columns from a public relations standpoint.
        We also had a sense that the ombudsman's public relations function was more
sophisticated and complex than that of the press agentry or public information
stereotypes often attached to the term "public relations." Consequently, we
believe the Gruning and Hunt theory provides an appropriate theoretical
framework from which we can learn more about the public relations activities of
ombudsmen as revealed in their columns.
Method
        We examined the columns published in 1994 by ombudsmen who worked for daily
newspapers in the United States. To determine if they had published columns in
1994, we contacted the 34 U.S. ombudsmen listed as members of the Organization
of News Ombudsmen. We then obtained the columns of the 22 ombudsmen who
published columns during the year.[42] Thus, we were able to conduct a census of
ombudsman columns for a single year.
        An ombudsman was defined as someone employed full time for the purpose of
communicating with readers about the newspaper's performance. Not all newspapers
use the title of ombudsman. Some ombudsmen hold such titles as reader
representative, public editor or reader advocate. What makes them ombudsmen is
that they all perform similar functions.
        Each column was content-analyzed with the unit of analysis being the
paragraph.[43] We chose the paragraph because of the complexity of behavior
found in ombudsmen columns. Ombudsmen often write about more than one subject
per column. The manner in which they respond to each subject or even their
response to the same subject matter can vary. By focusing on the paragraph, we
were better able to detect and categorize this variance.[44]
        The content analysis was a two-step process.[45] We achieved an intercoder
reliability of 98 percent based on Holsti's formula.[46] We first coded to
identify paragraphs containing public relations behavior. Public relations was
defined as seeking to facilitate communication between the newspaper and its
constituencies for the purpose of furthering public understanding of the
newspaper's behavior.[47]
        This included reporting comments from readers, explanations of newspaper
behavior, and announcements regarding new services or changes in existing
services offered by the newspaper. Two types of behavior fell outside the realm
of public relations: accountability and criticism.
        Accountability was defined as the newspaper being obligated to explain or
justify its behavior to such constituencies as readers or sources of
information.[48] Accountability occurred when an ombudsman published the answer
of someone at the newspaper in response to a reader comment or question about
the paper's behavior. The response had to come from a person involved with or
having supervisory authority over those involved with the behavior that
triggered reader reaction.
        We coded as public relations instances where newspaper managers or staff
offered explanations through the ombudsman's column regarding the paper's
behavior without having been prompted by a reader's request for accountability.
We viewed these as seeking to further public understanding of the newspaper's
conduct.
        Criticism was defined as the informed, analytical evaluation and judgment of a
newspaper's performance.[49]    To be considered criticism, an ombudsman had to
criticize his or her own newspaper. We encountered cases in which an ombudsman
offered cogent, lucid and insightful analysis of the shortcomings of journalism
generally. We coded this as public relations because it did not involve
criticism of the ombudsman's newspaper but instead seemed designed to further
public understanding of journalism and newspaper practices generally.
        We excluded from this study all paragraphs containing solely accountability or
criticism or a combination of the two. We included paragraphs that contained a
combination of public relations and other behaviors. However, for this study, we
considered only the part of the paragraph containing public relations behavior.
        Each paragraph was read and coded to determine which model of the Gruning and
Hunt theory it reflected. Press agentry was defined as one-way communication in
which the ombudsman promoted an activity of the newspaper through use of
hyperbole, exaggeration or self-promotion.[50]
        Public information was defined as one-way communication in which the ombudsman
provided a factual and objective, although usually favorable, message about the
newspaper's behavior.[51]
        The presence of reader comment differentiated press agentry and public
information from the two-way asymmetrical and two-way symmetrical models. We
differentiated two-way asymmetrical and two-way symmetrical by the degree to
which the ombudsman maintained control of the public dialogue or exchange of
views about the newspaper's performance.[52]
        We considered an ombudsman to be engaging in two-way asymmetrical behavior when
he or she summarized the views of one or more readers about the newspaper's
performance. The key was the ombudsman's role in controlling the agenda and
dialogue occurring in the column. When the ombudsman seemed in control of these,
we coded the behavior as two-way asymmetrical.
        When the ombudsman was more of an equal partner with readers in the dialogue,
we coded the behavior as two-way symmetrical. Ombudsmen practicing this model
allowed readers to speak in their own voice, often in their own words, about the
newspaper's performance. The ombudsman was more of a conduit who facilitates
public discussion of the newspaper's performance.
        Admittedly, the limitations of this content analysis prevented us from
observing the degree to which behavior we identified as two-way symmetrical may
have led to the goal of mutual understanding or to an adjustment of
relationships between the newspaper and the public. We argue that an ombudsman
who allows the public to speak in its own voice, that is allowed to be a more
equal participant in a public dialogue about the newspaper's performance, is
more likely to arrive at the goal of mutual understanding and to consider
changing its own behavior than an organization that controls the public dialogue
and speaks on behalf of the public.
Results
        The columns we studied were designed primarily to initiate and maintain a
two-way exchange of information between the newspaper and the public, or to
provide a one-way flow of information from the ombudsman to the public.
-----------------
Table 1 Goes Here
-----------------
 
        Table 1 shows an overwhelming percentage of the paragraphs (84.7 percent) of
the ombudsmen columns reflect public relations behavior. Seven of the 22
ombudsmen devoted more than 90 percent of the paragraphs in their columns to
purely public relations behavior.
        When the purely public relations behavior paragraphs are combined with
paragraphs including public relations and other forms of behavior, the results
show that 21 of the 22 ombudsmen devoted more than three-fourths of the
paragraphs of their columns to behavior that was public relations-oriented in
some form. Even when ombudsmen are criticizing their newspapers or responding to
demands for accountability, they often accompany this with public relations
behavior, usually an explanation of why the paper behaved as it did in a given
situation.
 -----------------
Table 2 Goes Here
-----------------
 
        Table 2 shows that public information was the dominant public relations model
practiced by the ombudsmen in their columns. More than three-quarters (79.4
percent) of the paragraphs analyzed reflected this function.
        Ombudsmen at three newspapers -- The Washington Post, the Fort Wayne (Ind.)
News-Sentinel and the Portland Oregonian -- devoted more than 90 percent of the
paragraphs of their columns to the public information model. By contrast,
ombudsmen at three newspapers -- the Rocky Mountain News (Denver), the
Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post devoted less than 60
percent of the paragraphs of their columns to the public information model.
        Yet, at all 22 newspapers, the public information model accounted for more than
half of the paragraphs written in ombudsmen columns. Thus, much of the time,
ombudsmen provide their readers straightforward explanations and discussions of
why newspapers behaved as they did in given situations.
        Ombudsmen rarely practiced the press agentry model. A scant 0.2 percent of the
paragraphs contained press agentry behavior. Twelve ombudsmen did not practice
any press agentry and only one ombudsman, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, devoted
more than
1 percent of the column's paragraphs to press agentry.
        Of the two-way models of public relations behavior, two-way symmetrical was the
most widely practiced, although it made up only 11.9 percent of the paragraphs
analyzed. Ombudsmen at three newspapers -- the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News, the
Boston Globe and the Palm Beach Post -- devoted more than 20 percent of the
paragraphs of their columns to the two-way symmetrical model.
        The two-way asymmetrical function occurred in just 4 percent of the paragraphs
analyzed. The Minneapolis Star Tribune ombudsman led the list, with 9.3 percent
of his paragraphs reflecting this model. Ombudsmen at four newspapers -- the
Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., the (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, the
Boston Globe and the Minneapolis Star Tribune - devoted as much as 6 percent of
their columns to the two-way asymmetric model.
        The various combinations of functions, i.e. public information and two-way
asymmetrical, accounted for less than 5 percent of the total paragraphs in the
study, although two newspapers -- the Rocky Mountain News and the Minneapolis
Star Tribune -- had more than 7 percent of the paragraphs reflecting both the
public information/two-way asymmetrical models.
        Ombudsmen at three newspapers -- the Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
the Rocky Mountain News and the Palm Beach Post -- wrote columns containing more
than 8 percent of the total paragraphs for the public information/two-way
asymmetrical models.
-----------------
Table 3 Goes Here
 -----------------
 
        The contrast between the one-way and two-way models is shown in Table 3. About
25 percent of the paragraphs involved solely one-way models of public relations
communication, either in the form of press agentry, public information or a
combination of the two models.
        Yet nearly three-quarters of the paragraphs in the columns showed some degree
of two-way communication, either as two-way asymmetrical, two-way symmetrical or
a combination of both. It is important to note the presence of public
information in many of the paragraphs reflecting two-way models of public
relations communication.
        We found no single column devoted entirely to two-way models of communication.
This suggests that ombudsmen practice the two-way models of public relations
behavior in tandem with the public information model. An ombudsman allows the
public to "have its say" about the newspaper's performance, but follows that up
with an explanation or commentary about the behavior in question. Such
discussions seem designed to provide the newspaper's point of view rather than
to engage in an extended give-and-take dialogue with the public.
        The willingness of ombudsmen to involve the public in their columns was what
most differentiated them. At two newspapers -- The Washington Post and the Fort
Wayne News-Sentinel -- more than 90 percent of the paragraphs were solely
one-way forms of communication, mostly the public information model. The
public's voice was seldom directly heard in the ombudsman's columns.
        The Washington Post's ombudsman engaged predominantly in commentaries about the
challenges of journalism generally rather than attempting to answer specific
reader inquiries. By contrast, the reader representative in Fort Wayne wrote a
limited number of columns and all were designed to elicit public understanding
of the newspaper's editorial decision-making process. It seems clear that these
functions, important as they may be, constituted a more minor role in the work
of the other 20 ombudsmen who write public columns.
         At six newspapers -- the Orange County Register, Rocky Mountain News, Amarillo
Globe-News, Boston Globe, Palm Beach Post and Minneapolis Star Tribune -- some
form of two-way communication was found in at least 90 percent of the
paragraphs. This suggests these ombudsmen are more committed to airing public
comment about their papers' performance. These ombudsmen still perform the
public information role much of the time, but do so in reaction to issues and
disputes raised by readers.
        At newspapers in the middle, the public's voice was heard in varying degrees.
Typically, public comment was reported in some columns, but not all columns.
These ombudsmen primarily disseminated information, yet at times allowed readers
to air their grievances and comments.
Discussion
        If allowing the public to speak out about a newspaper's performance is serving
the public interest, then most ombudsmen do so more effectively than if they
engaged in purely one-way forms of communication. In a majority of columns that
we examined, the ombudsman served as a facilitator of a dialogue with readers
about the newspaper's performance.
        Eighteen of the 22 ombudsmen engaged in some form of  dialogue with readers at
least half of the time. Six of the 22 ombudsmen spent more than 90 percent of
their columns engaged in some form of dialogue with the public.
        These conclusions, though, come with an important caveat. By virtue of their
position and due to the nature of how they write their columns, ombudsmen decide
who gets to speak, how they will be allowed to speak and how much they are
allowed to say.
        We cannot determine by reading their columns what ombudsmen did not publish. In
some instances, an ombudsman may have ducked, downplayed or ignored some
particularly biting public criticisms of the newspaper's performance. Such
criticisms may have been passed along internally to editors and reporters
without any public comment by anyone at the newspaper.
        It is also significant that the most frequent model of behavior that we found
was public information. Ombudsmen are rarely modern-day P.T. Barnums beating the
drums on their newspaper's behalf or disseminating information with little
regard to its truthfulness.
        Although ombudsmen are hardly Rodney Dangerfields who complain about their
newspapers not getting any respect, ombudsmen do seem to believe the public
misunderstands or is not adequately informed about why journalists behave as
they do. Admittedly, this conclusion was not drawn from systematic study of
ombudsmen attitudes toward the public but rather from our observation that
ombudsmen explain a lot.
        Many columns had a "Journalism 101" or "Newspaper 101" quality. As Tate
concluded after reading some 800 ombudsman columns, "most [ombudsmen] are
inclined to explain rather than examine and often the explanations amount to  .
. . we do it that way because that's the way we do it; it's our policy."[53]
        We found ombudsmen devoting much of their columns to one-way practices of
public relations, primarily disseminating truthful, although favorable,
information about the newspaper's activities. Perhaps ombudsman believe that "if
you the public knew what we knew you would have made the same decision."
        This analysis cannot answer why ombudsmen favor one-way models or two-way
models in a given situation. Perhaps the nature of the issues raised by readers
may be a determinant of whether an ombudsman uses one-way or two-way models of
communication. Researchers may want to examine this on two levels. First, the
nature of the issue may determine which issues are addressed in ombudsmen
columns and which are excluded.
        Secondly, the nature of the issue may determine how the ombudsman chooses to
address it within the column. Ombudsmen oriented toward one-way forms of
communication may do most of the "talking" in discussions about certain
controversial issues. But ombudsmen oriented toward two-way forms of
communication may opt for allowing readers to define the issue and to comment on
the newspaper's behavior.
        A newspaper's corporate culture may help explain the behavior we observed. A
corporate culture that encourages public discussion of the newspaper's
performance might encourage an ombudsman to engage in two-way models of
communication in response to reader complaints about the paper's performance.
Corporate cultures that discourage public discussion of a paper's performance
might promote more one-way model behavior.
        In their seminal study of the role orientations of ombudsmen, Ettema and
Glasser found the role of the ombudsman could not be unambiguously defined by
ombudsmen themselves.
The researchers found that ombudsmen seemed capable of embracing conflicting
role orientations, most notably rejecting the idea that ultimate loyalty to
readers was the opposite of ultimate loyalty to the newspaper.[54]
        Ettema and Glasser argued that the public relations function was related to a
sense of newspaper loyalty and also to a sense of divided loyalty between
readers and the newspaper.[55]
        Part of the problem may be traditional conceptions of public relations. If
public relations is defined as disseminating favorable information about a
newspaper to the public, then all ombudsmen engage in this behavior a majority
of the time.
        But if public relations is seen as a process capable of involving two-way
communication between the public and the newspaper in an attempt to establish a
public dialogue about the paper's performance, then the ambiguity that Ettema
and Glasser found becomes a bit more understandable.
        Two-way forms of public relations behavior offer an ombudsman an opportunity to
air criticism in a way that is, perhaps, less threatening to staff morale.
Rather than the ombudsmen being the critic, the public is the critic. Yet we
found this behavior often accompanied by explanations of the behavior criticized
by readers. Professional orientations
of ombudsmen cannot be overlooked as possible explanations of this relationship
of one-way and two-way forms of behavior.
        In short, two-way forms of public relations behavior may enable an ombudsman to
promote the goals of criticism without having to be a critic. Ombudsmen may
believe that allowing the public to speak on selected topics shows that the
newspaper's willingness to acknowledge the legitimacy of public comment.        Future
researchers might want to compare role orientations of ombudsmen and the degree
to which they engage in two-way, as opposed to one-way forms, of public
relations behavior. Ombudsmen who rate higher in reader loyalty might more often
use two-way models of public relations behavior, particularly the two-way
symmetrical model.
        The ombudsman's public relations behavior is more complex than has previously
been shown. We believe some forms of public relations behavior offer the
potential to serve the public interest. Far from being the "flack" associated
with the press agentry model of public relations, newspaper ombudsmen often use
their public columns to maintain a dialogue with the public about the
newspaper's behavior.
 
 
 
 
 
 
ENDNOTES
 
[1]      James S. Ettema and Theodore L. Glasser, "Public Accountability or Public
Relations? Newspaper Ombudsmen Define their Role," Journalism Quarterly, 64:3-12
(Spring 1987). See also, Reese Cleghorn, "A Robust Press Still Has a Thin Skin,"
Washington Journalism Review, November 1989, p. 2.
[2]      David Pritchard, "The Impact of Newspaper Ombudsmen on Journalists'
Attitudes," Journalism Quarterly 70:77-86 (Spring 1993). See also, Charles W.
Bailey, "Newspapers Need Ombudsmen," Washington Journalism Review, November
1990, pp. 29-34.
[3]      Ettema and Glasser, op. cit. See also, Cassandra Tate, "What do Ombudsmen
Do?" Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 1984, pp. 37-41.
[4]      James E. Gruning and Todd Hunt, Managing Public Relations (New York: Holt,
Rinehart and Winston, 1984).
[5]      J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power, (New York: Longman, second edition,
1995); David R. Nelsen and Kenneth Starck, "The Newspaper Ombudsman as Viewed by
the Rest of the Staff," Journalism Quarterly, 51:453-457 (Autumn 1974).
[6]      A.H. Raskin, "What's Wrong with American Newspapers?" The New York Times
Magazine, June 11, 1967, pp. 28 and 84. Media critic Ben Bagdikian posed a
similar idea the same year. He suggested that a community ombudsman sit on a
newspaper's board of directors to represent the public interest. Ben Bagdikian,
"The American Newspaper is neither Record, Mirror, Journal, Ledger, Bulletin,
Telegram, Examiner, Register, Chronicle, Gazette, Observer, Monitor, Transcript
nor Herald of the Day's Events," Esquire, March 1967, pp. 124, 138, 142-44, 146.
[7]      Raskin, op. cit.
[8]      "Ombudsman Named by C-J & Times," The Courier-Journal, July 16, 1967.
[9]      Donald C. Rowat, The Ombudsman Plan: Essays on the Worldwide Spread of an
Idea, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1973).
[10]     Donald T. Mogavero, "The American Ombudsman," Journalism Quarterly,
59:548-553, 580 (Winter 1982).
[11]     William L. Barnett, "Survey Shows Few Papers Are Using Ombudsmen,"
Journalism Quarterly, 50:153-156 (Spring 1973), Suraj Kapoor and Ralph Smith,
"The Newspaper Ombudsman -- A Progress Report," Journalism Quarterly, 56:629-631
(Winter 1979).
[12]     Nelsen and Starck, op. cit.; Michael K. Knepler and Jonathan Peterson,
"The Ombudsman's Uneasy Chair," Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 1978, p.
54-57; Mogavero, op. cit.
[13]     Barnett, op. cit.; Kapoor and Smith, op. cit.; Mogavero, op. cit.;
Knepler and Peterson, op. cit.; Cassandra Tate, "What do Ombudsman do?" Columbia
Journalism Review, May/June, 1984, pp. 37-41; Bailey, op. cit.
[14]     James M. Bernstein, "The Public View of Newspaper Accountability,"
Newspaper Research Journal, 7:1-9 (Winter 1986); Barbara W. Hartung, Alfred
JaCoby and David M. Dozier, "Reader's Perceptions of Purpose of Newspaper
Ombudsman Program," Journalism Quarterly, 65:914-919 (Winter 1988).
[15]     Pritchard, op. cit.
[16]     Ettema and Glasser, op. cit.
[17]     B.W. McKinzie, "How Papers With and Without Ombudsmen Resolve Disputes,"
Newspaper Research Journal, 15:14-24 (Spring 1994); Neil Nemeth, "The News
Ombudsman, Newspapers and Crisis Management: The Case of the Standard Gravure
Tragedy," Southwestern Mass Communication Journal, 9:31-43 (1993).
[18]     Ettema and Glasser, op. cit.
[19]     Mark Fitzgerald, "Struggling for Recognition," Editor & Publisher, July
13, 1985, p. 7.
[20]     Ettema and Glasser, op. cit.
[21]     Ibid., p. 7.
[22]     Michael Ryan and David L. Martinson, "Public Relations Practitioners,
Journalists View Lying Similarly," Journalism Quarterly, 71:199-211 (Spring
1994); Michael Ryan and David L. Martinson, "Journalists and Public Relations
Practitioners: Why the Antagonism?" Journalism Quarterly, 65:131-140 (Spring
1988). See Also, Sandra Kruger Stegall and Keith P. Sanders, "Coorientation of
PR Practitioners and News Personnel in Education News," Journalism Quarterly,
63:341-347, 393 (Summer 1986); Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, David L. Martinson and
Michael Ryan, "How Public Relations Practitioners and Editors in Florida View
Each Other," Journalism Quarterly, 61:860-865, 884 (Winter 1984); Dennis W.
Jeffers, "Performance Expectations as a Measure of Relative Status of News and
PR People," Journalism Quarterly, 54:299-306 (Summer 1977); and Craig Arnoff,
"Credibility of Public Relations for Journalists," Public Relations Review,
1:45-56 (Fall 1975).
[23]     Ryan and Martinson (1988), op. cit.
[24]     Dennis L. Wilcox, Phillip H. Ault and Warren K. Agee, Public Relations
Strategies and Tactics, (New York: HarperCollins, 4th Edition, 1995).
[25]     James E. Gruning, "Theory and Practice of Interactive Media Relations,"
Public Relations Quarterly, Fall 1990, pp. 18-23.
[26]     Wilcox, Ault and Agee, op. cit.
[27]     Many public relations practitioners view the public as a series of
audiences that can be differentiated according to their interest, or stake, in
the organization. Ibid.
[28]     Gruning and Hunt, op. cit.
[29]     James E. Gruning and Larissa Gruning, "Models of Public Relations and
Communication," in James E. Gruning, editor, Excellence in Public Relations and
Communication Management (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992),
pp. 285-320.
[30]     Ibid.
[31]     Ibid.
[32]     Ibid.
[33]     James E. Gruning and Jon White, "The Effect of Worldviews on Public
Relations Theory and Practice," in James E. Gruning, editor, Excellence in
Public Relations and Communication Management (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 1992), pp. 31-64.
[34]     Ibid., Gruning and Gruning, op. cit.
[35]     Gruning and White, op. cit.
[36]     Gruning and Gruning, op. cit.
[37]     Nelsen and Starck, op. cit.; Bezanson, et.al., op. cit.; Ettema and
Glasser, op. cit. Journalists also have had similar negative reactions to the
criticisms of media critics. See also, Mark S. Bacon, "Criticizing the Critic:
L.A. Times' David Shaw and His Detractors," Newspaper Research Journal, 16:
21-34 (Winter 1995); and Jane Hall, "Hazards of the Trade," Media Studies
Journal, 9: 35-46 (Spring 1995).
[38]     Mark Fitzgerald, "Struggling for Recognition," Editor & Publisher, July
13, 1985, p. 7.
[39]     Nelsen and Starck, op. cit.; Knepler and Peterson, op. cit.; Ettema and
Glasser, op. cit.; Randall P. Bezanson, Gilbert Cranberg, John Soloski, Libel
Law and the Press. Myth and Reality, (New York: The Free Press, 1987).
[40]     Nemeth, op. cit.
[41]     Tate, op. cit.; Nemeth, op. cit.
[42]     The newspapers were the (Portland) Oregonian, Salt Lake Tribune,
(Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, (Norfolk, Va.) Virginian-Pilot and
Ledger-Star, Richmond Times-Dispatch, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fresno Bee,
(Minneapolis) Star-Tribune, Palm Beach Post, Boston Globe, Amarillo Globe-News,
(San Diego) Union-Tribune, Sacramento Bee, (Denver) Rocky Mountain News,
Washington Post, Hartford Courant, Fort. Worth Star-Telegram, (Santa Ana,
Calif.) Orange County Register, (Fort Wayne, Ind.) News-Sentinel, (Louisville,
Ky.) Courier-Journal, (Baltimore) Sun, and the (Wilmington, Del.) News-Journal.
[43]     Guido H. Stempel III, "Content Analysis," in Guido H. Stempel II and
Bruce H. Westley, Research Methods in Mass Communication, (Englewood Cliffs,
N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2nd edition, 1989), pp. 124-136; Roger D. Wimmer and Joseph
R. Dominick, Mass Media Research An Introduction (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth,
1983).
[44]     For an example of a study using the paragraph as the unit of analysis,
see Robert A. Wells and Erika G. King, "Prestige Newspaper Coverage of Foreign
Affairs in the 1990 Congressional Campaign, Journalism Quarterly 71:652-664
(Autumn 1994).
[45]     All coding was done by the authors of this study. They are former
journalists who are now instructors of journalism. One of the authors also
teaches public relations courses.
[46]     See Ole R. Holsti, Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and
Humanities, (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1969).
[47]     Adapted from a general definition of public relations in Wilcox, Ault and
Agee, op. cit.
[48]     David Pritchard, "The Role of Press Councils in a System of Media
Accountability: The Case of Quebec," Canadian Journal of Communication Vol.
16:73-93 (1991).
[49]     Adopted from Hector Ericksen Mendoza, "Crossing Over -- A Rainbow of
Criticism," Media Studies Journal, 9:67-74 (Spring 1995).
[50]     Adopted from Gruning and Gruning, op. cit. and Gruning and Hunt, op. cit.
[51]     Ibid.
[52]     Ibid.
[53]     Tate, op. cit., p. 38.
[54]     Ettema and Glasser, op. cit.
[55]     Ibid.
Ombudsman Roles
Page 26
 
Table 1
 
Paragraphs Containing Public Relations Behavior
 
City                            Col     Para            PR              PR/Other
 
Fort Wayne              6         109   100             100
Hartford                        23        443   96.8            98.4
Wilmington              22        710   95.0            95.6
Baltimore                        6        105   94.3            100
Richmond                        36      1,034   93.0            94.3
Jacksonville            48      1,244   91.6            95.4
St. Louis                       47      1,417   90.8            92.5
Salt Lake City          50        990   88.6            90.6
Amarillo                        92      2,495   86.8            88.1
Fort Worth              48      1,530   85.6            89.0
Norfolk                 52      1,329   85.2            92.3
Sacramento              34        774   84.3            91.8
Washington              37        681   81.4            93.2
Fresno                  48      1,007   81.2            83.3
Portland                        42        912   81.1            90.4
San Diego                       45        995   81.1            87.7
Palm Beach              36        522   78.4            82.4
Denver                  53        556   75.7            95.5
Boston                  23        405   74.8            85.2
Minneapolis             46      1,040   73.8            80.6
Orange County           46        765   66.1            81.8
Louisville               5        109   66.0            74.3
Table               845  19,172 84.7            89.9
 
NOTE: Col. is number of columns published. Para. is total number of paragraphs.
PR is percentage of paragraphs containing solely public relations behavior.
PR/Other is percentage of paragraphs containing public relations and other forms
of behavior.
Ombudsmen Roles
Page 27
 
Table 2
 
Paragraphs Coded by Public Relations Model
(Expressed in Percentages by Public Information  Function)
 
City                    Para    PI      PA      2-A     2-S     PI-2A   PI-2S   2A-2S
                        PR
 
Washington                634   98.9       0    0.3        0       0     0.8      0
Fort Wayne                109   96.3    2.8        0       0       0        0   0.9
Portland                  825   90.9       0    1.3      6.6    0.7      0.3    0.2
Hartford                  435   88.0    0.4     3.0      2.3    2.1      3.9    0.3
St. Louis               1,310   87.3    0.3     3.7      7.4    0.3      0.9    0.1
Louisville                   81 86.4       0    6.2      3.7    2.5      1.2       0
Jacksonville            1,186   86.1    0.5     6.7      3.0    2.9      0.8       0
Salt Lake City             897  85.6    0.6     3.0      9.0    0.9      0.8    0.1
Richmond                   975  85.0       0    0.7     12.3    0.7      1.3       0
San Diego                  873  84.8    0.1     3.4      7.0    2.9      1.7    0.1
Fort Worth              1,361   84.7    0.6     4.1      6.5    3.1      1.0       0
Baltimore                  105  81.9       0    1.0      9.5    4.7      1.0    1.9
Sacramento                 711  80.7    0.1     3.4     12.4    1.0      2.4       0
Fresno                     839  74.6       0    2.1     19.9    0.6      2.8       0
Norfolk         1,226   74.2       0    4.8     15.8    1.9      3.3       0
Amarillo                2,199   73.0       0    5.5     20.8    0.4      0.2    0.1
Boston             345  67.3       0    6.7     22.0    1.7      1.7    0.6
Orange County      626  66.6    0.2     4.0     16.9    3.4      8.9       0
Denver             531  59.7       0    3.0      7.9    9.8     18.5    1.1
Minneapolis                839  59.6       0    9.3     18.1    7.5       4.9   0.6
Palm Beach                 430  54.9       0    4.2     30.9    1.4       8.4   0.2
 
Table                        17,216     79.4    0.2     4.0     11.9    2.0       2.4   0.1
 
Note: Para PR is number of paragraphs containing PR behavior. PI is public
information model; PA is press agentry model; 2A is two-way asymmetrical model;
2S is two-way symmetrical model; PI-2A is public information/two-way
asymmetrical; PI-2S is public information/two-way symmetrical; and 2A-2S is
two-way asymmetrical and two-way symmetrical.
Ombudsmen Roles
Page 28
Table 3
 
Paragraphs Coded by Public Relations Model
(Ranked by Descending Percentage of One-Way Communication)
 
 
City                    Col.    Col.    Col.    Per.    Col.            Col.
                        Tol.    PA/PI   PI      1-way   PI/2A/2S        2-way
 
Washington              37      0       34      91.2         3           8.8
Fort Wayne               6      4         1     88.1         1          11.9
Hartford                23      2       11      58.2       10           41.8
Wilmington              22      0       11      53.5       11           46.5
Baltimore                6      0         3     47.6         3          52.4
Portland                42      0       20      45.2       22           54.8
San Diego               45      1       15      37.0       29           63.0
Jacksonville            48      4       14      35.2       30           64.8
Richmond                36      0       12      33.7       24           66.3
Fort Worth              48      1       13      28.7       34           71.3
Salt Lake City          50      3         9     26.3       38           73.7
Fresno                  48      0       10      24.8       38           75.2
St. Louis               47      2         6     16.8       39           83.2
Louisville               5      0         1     16.0         4          84.0
Norfolk         52      0         7     14.4       45           85.6
Sacramento              34      1         2     10.7       31           89.3
Orange County   46      1         3      9.1       42           90.9
Denver          53      0         4      8.9       49           91.1
Amarillo                92      1         8      8.1       83           91.9
Boston          23      0         1      6.4       22           93.6
Palm Beach              36      0         1      3.3       35           96.7
Minneapolis             46      0         1      2.5       45           97.5
 
Table                     845      20       187 25.8       638          74.2
 
Note: PA is press agentry/one-way communication; PI is public
information/one-way communication; 2A is two-way asymmetrical communication; 2S
is two-way symmetrical communication; PI-2A is public information/two-way
asymmetrical communication; PI-2S is public information/two-way symmetrical
communication; and 2A-2S is two-way asymmetrical/two-way symmetrical
communication. The percentages are for the total number of paragraphs of one-way
communication and the total number of paragraphs that contain some degree of
two-way communication.

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