March 30, 1999

Striking the Balance, Audience Interests, Business Pressures and Journalists’ Values



Three samples were drawn for the press portion of this survey: a national news media sample, a local news media sample and an Internet 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. The Internet sample was selected from online-only news outlets, as well as the online news outlets of traditional print and television news organizations. The specific sampling procedures are outlined below.

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.

(2) Type of medium.

(3) Organizational responsibility of the individual respondent.

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.

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.


National Media





Wire Services

Local Media

Television — a random sample was selected from all stations listed in the top 100 media markets.

Print — the top 100 newspapers ranked by circulation were selected, excluding those newspapers selected for the national sample.


National Sample

Executive Level

Local Sample

Executive Level

The national and local news media samples were each divided into subgroups, defined by the type of news organization and the respondent’s position within that organization. Each subgroup was randomly split into replicates and quotas were set for the number of interviews to be completed in each subgroup. The Internet sample was randomly divided into replicates and assigned a quota. These quotas were set to ensure adequate representation of the smaller subgroups in the final sample of completed interviews. The subgroups, quotas and the number of completed interviews for each are listed below.

Component                             Quota       Completed

National Print                         110            123

  National Newspapers

     Executives                         12             15

     Senior Editors and Producers       21             24

     Working Journalists and Editors    34             37

  National Magazines

     Executives                          4              2

     Senior Editors and Producers        7              8

     Working Journalists and Editors    11             12

  National News Services

     Executives                          2              2

     Senior Editors and Producers        4              6

     Working Journalists and Editors     7              8

 Wire Services

     Executives                          2              3

     Senior Editors and Producers        3              3

     Working Journalists and Editors     3              3

National Television                    110            114

 National TV and Radio

     Executives                         20             22

     Senior Editors and Producers       35             34

     Working Journalists and Editors    55             58

Local Print                            115            118

 Local Newspapers

     Executives                         30             29

     Senior Editors and Producers       35             37

     Working Journalists and Editors    50             52

Local Television                       115            136

 Local TV News

     Executives                         30             28

     Senior Editors and Producers       35             50

     Working Journalists and Editors    50             58

Internet                                50             61

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; it did not inform respondents that the Committee of Concerned Journalists was involved. Approximately one week after the letter was mailed, trained interviewers began calling the sampled individuals to conduct the survey or set up an appointment to do so at a later date. If a respondent refused an interview, in most cases a second letter was mailed, asking the individual to reconsider. This was followed approximately one week later by another telephone call.

The interviewers were experienced, executive specialists trained to ensure their familiarity with the questionnaire and their professionalism in dealing with news media professionals. The interviewing was conducted from November 20, 1998 through February 11, 1999.

Interviews were completed with 70% of the selected news media respondents who still held their position; 17% could not be reached in order to complete an interview, despite repeated calls; and 13% refused to participate in the survey.

Design of the Public Sample

Results for the general public survey are based on telephone interviews conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates among a nationwide sample of 1,203 adults, 18 years of age or older, during the period February 18-21, 1999. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results based on either Form 1 (N=603) or Form 2 (N=600), the sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
NOTE: If you print this document, we recommend that you print it in “landscape” in order to see all the categories in the questionnaire.