Community Newspapers as a Macro-Level Source of Social Control
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This dissertation proposes a theoretical model regarding the role of local mass media in realizing safe and healthy communities. Despite a rich body of theoretical and empirical work in mass communication, few studies to date have directly connected local mass media with social control, or the capacity of a community to regulate itself for the realization of common values. This dissertation, derived from a long line of research on community journalism and a community-oriented approach to social control, will examine whether community newspapers directly, and indirectly through structural dimensions of community social organization, account for community-level variations in crime. Specifically, the prevalence of community newspaper information is hypothesized to have direct negative effects on crime by reinforcing the normative culture and appropriate behavioral standards and have indirect negative effects on crime through its positive effects on local social networks, organizational participation, and social cohesion. Two datasets were employed to test the direct and indirect effects of community newspapers on crime: the Social Capital Benchmark Survey Restricted Use Data File and a national sample of U.S. cities. The first study analyzing the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey found that the prevalence of community newspaper information measured by the combined penetration rate of community newspapers was positively associated with the indicator of social cohesion tapping trust among neighbors, which in turn had negative effects on robbery and burglary. The second study revealed that the prevalence of community newspaper information was positively related to the indicator of local social networks, which in turn had negative effects on robbery and burglary. In both studies, the prevalence of community newspaper information had direct negative effects on robbery and burglary. This dissertation ends by discussing limitations, directions for future research, and implications for the role of community newspapers in realizing safe and healthy communities.