Community journalism as ritual: A case study of community and weekly newspapers in Laurel, Maryland
Wotanis, Lindsey Lee
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This dissertation is a study of the intersection of community and community journalism in Laurel, an area with just over 100,000 residents in central Maryland. The case study utilizes ethnographic interviews with 40 stakeholders, including journalists, advertisers, city officials and readers. Using James W. Carey's theory of ritual communication as its theoretical foundation, the study examines the role of Laurel's two weekly newspapers in creating and maintaining community in Laurel. Findings suggest that when the community newspapers failed to meet readers' expectations for community content, the readers' news reading ritual was interrupted; as a result, their sense of community weakened. Furthermore, place, sharing and relationships proved key to the formation and sustenance of community, with the weekly newspapers playing an important role in the process. The study also found that stakeholders wanted the weeklies to maintain editorial spaces in Laurel, dedicate more resources to hiring more reporters, and be more accepting of user-generated content.