Mass Communication and Decision-Making: A Case Study of the Geography of Newspaper Information and Local Government

Mark S. Rosentraub
Barbara A. Burke

DOI: 10.2190/VMEV-M03R-6LC7-ET3X


An adequate level of information is generally regarded as a pre-condition for decision-making. Much of the information used in reaching decisions is produced and distributed by the mass media. This realization has undoubtedly focused the attention of critics and scholars on the media. Despite the existence of an abundant level of research dealing with the media, there are few theoretical frameworks for analysis of the organization of the media.

One framework that has been briefly discussed involves a concept central to geographical studies—distance-decay functions—with an analysis of the outputs of the media and the distribution of cities. This paper elaborates on the usage of this geographical framework through an examination of the outputs of newspapers in a metropolitan area. This analysis actually allows for two sets of observations. The first centers on the amount of information produced by newspapers and indicates residents in suburban cities surrounding the central city receive very little information about the affairs of their city, school and water districts, or other special districts frequently created by suburban communities. In light of data indicating most urban growth is taking place in the suburbs, this observation raises serious questions for students of decision-making. The second set of observations utilizes the geographic framework for analysis and leads to a discussion concerning the development of flexible media systems that can match the way in which people are distributed in an urban society.

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