A survey of business press journalists in the United States: Characteristics, professional roles and working conditions

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


Business press, Journalists, Working conditions, Editors, Publishers

Subject Categories

American Studies | Business and Corporate Communications | Journalism Studies | Sociology


This dissertation investigates and describes those editors, journalists and publishers that work in the trade or business press. The study draws on a tradition of sociological portraits in mass communications research, especially the works of Johnstone, Slawski and Bowman (1976) and Weaver and Wilhoit (1986, 1996). These researchers examined successive generations of 'mainstream' news journalists working in the US and attempted to describe their social origins, patterns of training, working lives, careers aspirations, and professional values. This dissertation expands on this work by examining a neglected population of journalists: the business press editor.

The dissertation followed closely the survey methods used by earlier researchers. In co-operation with the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE), one of the largest associations for business press journalism, a random sample of 600 names were taken from their mailing list. Each name was sent a survey instrument with questions designed to elicit their opinions on a wide range of professional issues, including: details of the organization for which they work; details of the publications for which they write; a bank of questions used by Weaver and Wilhoit (1996) to assess professional role conceptions; and a bank of questions used to assess levels of professionalism. A total of 307 replied, given a response rate of approximately 51 percent.

Findings suggests that business press journalists are generally older, better paid and better educated than their peers from the mainstream press. There are also many more women among the ranks of the business press than in mainstream journalism.

Professional role conceptions are generally the same as among mainstream journalists, with one notable exception: a minority (approximately 16 percent) of business press journalists have a professional role conception which states journalists should 'serve as spokespeople for business' and 'provide entertainment'. This is a new role conception.

Although women are better represented among business press journalists than among mainstream journalists, they still seem to suffer from discrimination. Women are paid less and fail to gain promotion to senior management positions when compared with men. Perhaps as a consequence women are also more likely to be anxious about their career.


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