April 30, 2000

Self Censorship: How Often and Why

Journalists Avoiding The News


Design of the Press Sample

Two representative samples were drawn for the press portion of this survey: a national news media sample and a local news media sample. Both the national and local samples were divided into two groups: print and television (which includes television and radio). For the national sample, the print category includes newspapers, magazines, wire services, and news services; the television category encompasses cable, television and radio networks. For the local sample, the print category includes newspapers from a listing of the top 100 newspapers ranked by circulation, excluding those selected for the national sample; the television category includes stations from the top 100 media markets. Within each of these market/medium strata (national and local, print and television), specific organizational positions (eg., managing editor, correspondent) were selected.

To obtain a sample that represented a cross-section of news organizations and of the people working at all levels of those organizations, the news media were divided into the following groupings:

(1) Importance of medium in terms of size of audience, market or influence.

a. National audience

b. Local audience

(2) Type of medium.

a. Newspapers

b. News magazines

c. Wire services

d. News services

e. Television stations and networks

f. Radio stations and networks

(3) Organizational responsibility of the individual respondent.

a. Executive

b. Senior editors and producers

c. Working editors and journalists

Identifying the Samples

National newspapers were identified using circulation numbers in the 1998 edition of Editor & Publisher. National television news organizations included the three national networks, major national cable networks, public television, and radio chains with Washington, D.C. bureaus. Particularly for the national sample, every attempt was made to replicate the selection of news organizations used for an earlier Center survey conducted in 1995. The news media executives and journalists in each position within these organizations were drawn from the News Media Yellow Book, Summer 1998 edition. A complete listing of the selected national news organizations is below.

Local newspapers were also identified using circulation numbers in the 1998 edition of Editor & Publisher. They include the 87 (out of the top 100) papers that were not pulled for the national sample. Local television stations were selected from the top 100 media markets, as listed in the 1996 Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook. After the local sample was selected, the Working Press of the Nation (published by Editor & Publisher) was used to identify the news media executives and journalists in each organization.

In addition to the main sample of journalists, 90 members of the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization were surveyed online. This group was analyzed separately from the main sample.

Media Organizations Sampled

Respondents were selected using a two-stage sampling procedure. In the first stage, news media organizations were selected and in the second stage individuals were chosen from those organizations. The criteria for selecting national and local news organizations is outlined below.

Local Media

Respondents Selected at Each Organization (By Title)

National Sample

Local Sample

Survey Procedures

Each person sampled for this survey was mailed an advance letter. The letters were intended to introduce the survey to prospective respondents, describe the nature and purpose of the survey and encourage participation. The letter was sent from the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review. The letters invited respondents to take the survey online, by visiting a secure Internet web site. In addition, follow-up mailings and telephone calls were used to encourage participation in the survey and, when necessary, to complete the interview by phone or by mail rather than online.

The survey was conduced in February and March, 2000. Overall, 30% of the journalists, editors, and managers who were selected participated in the survey.