Breach of Faith


A Crisis of Coverage in the Age of Corporate Newspapering
Gene Roberts, Editor in Chief
Thomas Kunkel, General Editor
978-1-55728-808-0 (paper)
October 2005


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What has happened to the news? Over the past decade, there has been a major shift in newspaper coverage. Many newspaper executives, paring costs and badly misreading public appetites, have cut back dramatically on all types of public-affairs reporting. Fewer reporters than ever are assigned to the statehouse or the White House, to city hall or foreign capitals. Too often celebrity gossip and movie tips take the place of serious journalism instead of existing alongside it. Newspapers once operated under a mandate to provide the kinds of news that citizens need to function in a democratic society, but many corporations have changed that mandate.
For more than two years, legendary editor Gene Roberts led a group of journalists in an unprecedented study of the newspaper industry for the American Journalism Review. This is the second volume of their findings. The first, Leaving Readers Behind: The Age of Corporate Newspapering, documented the storm of buying, selling, and consolidation that is transforming the American press. This second volume explores the consequences of these changes for ordinary communities and for the nation, arguing that they place democracy itself in peril.
Contributors include Peter Arnett, Mary Walton, Charles Layton, John Herbers, James McCartney, Carl Sessions Stepp, Lewis M. Simons, Chip Brown and Winnie Hu.

Gene Roberts teaches in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. He has had a long, distinguished career as reporter and editor, including serving as the managin editor of the New York Times and the executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. During his eighteen years at the Inquirer, the paper won seventeen Pulitzer Prizes.
Thomas Kunkel became dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland after three years as editor and director of the Project on the State of the American Newspaper and a long career in the newspaper business. He is also the author of Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the New Yorker.

“This collection of essays by veteran journalists analyzes how corporate interests, driven by economic concerns and marketing research, have worked to reduce the kind of coverage that has been the hallmark of the press’ role in a democracy. . . . Incisive analyses of a troubling trend.”
Booklist (American Library Association)
“A wise collection.”
Publishers Weekly
“An enlightening series of testimonials chronicling a trend that has imperiled our free press and, therefore, our democracy. . . . Roberts and Kunkel do the news industry and democracy a great service.”
Words & Reflections
“This book packs lots of bad news for the industry. . . . Breach of Faith charges that more and more of today’s newspapers and reader-driven, filled not with news that readers need to know but instead with fluff that they want to know.”
St. Louis Post Dispatch

“You should be really proud of this. I follow [the Project on the State of the American Newspaper] closely, and you do a terrific job.”
—Bob Woodward, Washington Post
“In an era of news coverage lite, Breach of Faith mounts a passionate and convincing case for substance and depth. Ironically, the heart of the argument is that the news media should give people what they want, a doctrine that has led many newspapers and television stations into vacuous and shallow reporting. It turns out that people actually want real news. What a surprise!.”
—Alex S. Jones director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University