Sense of community, political participation, and civic engagement: An examination of the relationships between local daily newspapers, news websites, and their communities


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Virginia Tech


Newspapers have been shown to have positive correlations with their readers, sense of community, political participation, and civic engagement. Using McMillan and Chavis, Sense of Community Theory and its accompanying SCI-2 as well as questions on demographics and media use, political participation, and civic engagement, this thesis conducts a survey study of two community newspaper readerships in differing locations within the continental United States. This study aims to discover and develop further understanding of the social, political, and community-building effects of community dailies and their mirrored-content news websites. First, it examines media consumption preferences and measure the sense of community (SOC) felt by readers of print-edition newspapers and their mirrored-content websites. Second, it examines the differences in SOC felt by print and website readers. Third, it examines the influence of SOC and print-news website-reading on political participation, and fourth, it examines the influence of SOC and print newspaper-website reading on civic engagement, both with the intent of discovering how SOC might mediate this relationship. This thesis will provide contextual information and build a case for the relevance of community dailies in an ever-increasingly fast-paced, technocentric society. Findings include a significant relationship between SOC and both print and online readers, and the question of whether readers of both print and online community news feel a stronger SOC than either on its own is answered. Further findings include newspaper website-reading shares a significant relationship with both political participation and civic engagement, and print does not. Implications and limitations are discussed.



Community Newspapers, Community Journalism, Newspaper Websites, Newspaper Readership, Sense of Community, Political Participation, Civic Engagement, Virginia, Wyoming