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McManamey, R. (2004). The Relationship Between Community Newspapers and Social Capital: the Power to Empower. University of Tasmania, PhD Thesis

Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
University of Tasmania

July 2004


Research confirms the positive relationship between commercial newspaper readership and social capital. However, the relationship between independent community newspapers and social capital is largely overlooked in social science research. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between community newspapers and social capital by analysing the newspaper content, and investigating the timing of the establishment and production of independent community newspapers published in Tasmania between 1910 and 2000. Using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, and a mixed-method case study, the study explores the number and distribution of community newspapers in Tasmania, the issues presented, and the relationship between community newspapers and social capital. Data were gathered through a content analysis of the community newspapers, as well as semi-structured interviews with newspaper editors/coordinators. The content analysis framework incorporates four dimensions of social capital identified from the literature: elements, networks, knowledge and identity resources and incorgov. Content of a sample of 16 independent community newspapers was coded into Excel and was analysed using SPSS; results are presented as frequencies and cross-tabulations. Findings indicate that community newspaper numbers in Tasmania between 1970 and 2000 tripled. Community newspaper establishment was closely related to the periods of highest emigration and economic change throughout the century. This suggests that community newspapers contribute to higher community cohesion in ‘difficult times’. The content analysis identified a changing focus of the papers’ content from human interest and more global information in the earliest decades, to community and local issues and interests after 1950. The study supports the literature in finding that trust is a key factor linked to the establishment and increasing circulations of new publications. It is also a core element of social capital, functioning at a number of levels in the process and continuity of community newspapers. The process supporting the relationship between communities and their community newspapers is identified in this study for the first time as cyclical reciprocity. The study provides valuable insights into community dynamics and patterns of social capital. This has implications for community development practice and policy. The study classifies the broad term ‘community newspaper’ into three levels, allowing independent community newspapers ‘of geographic locale’––established as a result of community initiative––to be identified as a unit, which may aid future media research. The study contributes a new perspective to social capital research by devising a content analysis framework to explore both the quality and quantity of social capital. Unlike other social capital research, the framework provides a means of analysing historical data and profiling social capital by means other than interview and survey. This has implications for expanding future social capital research.Mc


McManamey, RosaMaria

Rosa's PhD thesis "The Relationship between Social Capital and Community Newspapers: the power to empower", Faculty of Education, 2005 won the prestigious 2006 ANZRSAI (Australian New Zealand Regional Science Association International) Postgraduate Award. She has been at the UDRH...


University of Tasmania, Department of Rural Health

The University Department of Rural Health (UDRH) program is an Australian Government initiative. The UDRH Tasmania was established in 1997 and is based in Launceston, in Northern Tasmania. It is part of the Faculty of Health Science of the University of Tasmania. The UDRH Tasmania is part of a...

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