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Looking Through the Lens of the Metropolitan Newspaper: The Changing Political Geographies of Journalism, Media and Cities

August 2007 - July 2008

Using the metropolitan or city newspaper as lens, this project explores how the histories, technologies, and economic, political and institutional rationalities coalescing around news media connect to changing patterns of urban public life and citizenship.

Many studies and theories on the relationships of media, politics and cities have in one way or another acknowledged or asserted the close relation of the newspaper and the city. This ESRC postdoctoral fellowship, based in Department of Geography, was an extension of Scott Rodgers’ doctoral research on the Toronto Star, a major Canadian metropolitan newspaper. The North American metropolitan newspaper is an evolution of the big city newspapers of the early 20th Century America. It is a medium notably distinguished by its entanglement with a public and market geography of city and region, and at least over the past 50 years, by its dependence on a relatively stable constellation of work, family and leisure time.

Yet both the urban and media studies literatures – not to mention wider public talk about on cities and media – have pointed to deep ruptures in the relation of newspaper and city, as political institution, viable business, and media technology. More and more, cities are multifaceted, shifting, and spatially dispersed. Possible audiences pressed for time, working longer hours, often commuting long car journeys. Many families rely on two-incomes, and many others are single-parent families. Youth seem uninterested in reading printed news. Moreover, the diverse urban publics of cities such as Toronto are increasingly addressed by a range of newer-news media tailored to differentiated lives, time and interests: drive-to-work and drive home radio, 24-hour news, cable television, free commuter newspapers, magazines, news websites and web blogs.

This project considered these rapid and deep changes by exploring the practices and material arrangements making up the Toronto Star as organization, based on 2005 ethnographic research consisting of participant observations, interviews, content tracking and documentary analysis. In addition to publicising this research through such means as publications and conference papers, the fellowship culminated in an interdisciplinary workshop, co-organized with Dr Clive Barnett and Prof Allan Cochrane, entitled Mediapolis: media practices and the political spaces of cities.

Principal Investigator: Dr Scott Rodgers

Learn more about the research programme: Publics