Increasingly, Americans are becoming aware that a few large corporations control what most of us see, hear, and read. For example, 22 companies own 39 percent of the 1,457 daily newspapers in America, accounting for 69 percent of daily newspaper circulation, according to 2002 figures from the Editor & Publisher International Year Book. The top 10 companies control 51 percent of daily newspaper circulation.
But when we talk about the dangers of media consolidation, we tend to speak in abstractions. When a few corporations own all the media outlets, we might say, the country will lose its diversity of voices. The marketplace of ideas will be monopolized. Avenues for dissent will be closed.
All true. But when I think about what is lost with the demise of locally owned media, I also think of a particular media institution in my corner of the world. It embodies what locally owned and locally rooted media could be and the possibilities that disappear in a world conquered by CNN, Fox News, and USA Today.
For 70 years, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (formerly the Tupelo Daily Journal) has been a voice of faith and reason and an engine for social progress in what was once one of the most underdeveloped and undereducated regions of America. The Journalled by its publisher-owner, the late George McLeanwas the lead-
ing force behind decades of economic and community development that transformed Lee County (of which Tupelo is county seat) from the poorest county in the nations poorest state to the second most affluent.