Many journalists and other observers remember the 1960s as a watershed moment in American journalism. Do they remember correctly? This essay reviews relevant empirical studies on how US newspapers have changed since the 1950s. There is strong existing evidence that journalists have come to present themselves as more aggressive, that news stories have grown longer, and that journalists are less willing to have politicians and other government officials frame stories and more likely to advance analysis and context on their own. Based on content analysis of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this study finds that the growth in ‘contextual reporting’ has been enormous – from under 10 percent in all three newspapers in 1955 to about 40 percent in 2003; ‘conventional’ news stories on the front page declined from 80–90 percent in all three papers to about 50 percent in all three papers in the same period. What this study calls ‘contextual reporting’ has not been widely recognized (unlike, say, investigative reporting) as a distinctive news genre or news style and this article urges that it receive more attention.
in The rise of contextual journalism, 1950s–2000s (via)
Journalists themselves have placed so much emphasis on Watergate (1972–74) as a turning point that they sometimes forget that (a) the big change in the news culture began in the late 1960s, and (b) the growth of contextual journalism represents a much larger quantitative change than a reallocation of effort to investigative reporting.