Some scholars maintain that the social ideal of the United States corporation in the post-
World War II era envisioned a particularly large, stable entity that existed to serve the community
generally. Some scholars also say that this social ideal shifted, toward the end of the 20th century,
to instead venerate a corporation that focused on increasing stock price and delivering strong
“shareholder value.” In this paper, I explore to what extent the national news media reflect that
shift. Conducting content analysis in four major U.S. newspapers, I examine the frequency and
percentage of articles over time that mention terms related to both social ideals. Coverage in the
two newspapers located in a financial hub did reflect the changing ideals. Coverage in the other
two newspapers presented less conclusive data. The findings suggest that financial or business
media, rather than general news media, may reflect the shift in expectations of the ideal American
From Shared Gains to Shareholder Value: Using news coverage to trace the shifting social imaginary of the ideal corporation.
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