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How Has Newspaper Coverage of Arts-and-Culture Changed From 1998 to 2003?

According to Reporting the Arts II: News Coverage of Arts and Culture in America (www.najp.org/publications), a report published by the National Arts Journalism Program, the average number of column inches devoted to arts-and-culture coverage by metropolitan daily newspapers has declined from 1998 to 2003.

Arts-and-culture content occupied an average of 13,676 column inches (over the period of one month) in the 15 metropolitan daily newspapers studied in October 1998. In October 2003, with 17 metropolitan dailies studied, the average space allocated to arts-and-culture dropped 23% to 10,527 column inches.*

The decline in overall arts-and-culture coverage hit articles harder than listings. Newspaper space (also known as the "newshole") dedicated to articles on arts-and-culture dropped 32% from 1998 to 2003 -- compared to only a 9% decline in listings. The steep decline in space provided for articles changed the character of arts-and-culture coverage dramatically. While in 1998 there were 15 column inches of articles for every 10 column inches of listings, by 2003 the articles-to-listings ratio was only 11 column inches to 10.

Bar graph: The Declining Arts-and-Culture Newshole: Average column inches in metropolitan daily newspapers.

While the average newshole for arts-and-culture coverage dropped 23% from 1998 to 2003, the average overall newshole in the metropolitan newspapers declined more. Due to a slower rate of shrinkage, the arts-and-culture newshole grew in relation to the rest of the newspaper. In 1998, the combined Weekend and daily Arts & Lifestyle sections were 16% of the total newshole at metropolitan papers. By 2003, they were 19% of the total newshole.

*To verify that the addition of two more newspapers to the total number studied had no significant effect on the calculation of the average size of the arts-and-culture newshole in 2003, we filtered out the total column inches for these two papers--the Philadelphia Daily News and the Contra Costa Times--and calculated the average number of column inches for the 15 newspapers studied in both 1998 and 2003. The average amount of space devoted to arts-and-culture coverage in the original 15 newspapers (in 2003) turns out to be nearly identical to the average amount of arts-and-culture space in the complete collection of 17 metropolitan newspapers in the 2003 study (10,522 column inches compared to 10,527 column inches).

 

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