Readability of news stories published on the front page of Nepali broadsheet dailies (Report of a research funded by the University Grants Commission, Nepal, 2010)

The present research is the first ever research that studies the readability of Nepali newspapers. No research on readability of Nepali print media had been conducted earlier. In this background, the research initiates any study of such kind. I would like to thank the University Grants Commission (UGC) for providing me an opportunity to conduct such a groundbreaking research. Through this research, the readability scores of six Nepali broadsheet dailies have been measured by using the ‘Cloze procedure’. I hope the present research contributes in exploring new avenue of media research in Nepal. Moreover, it also provides a basis for further research on readability of Nepali newspapers. At this juncture of time, I would also like to appreciate my students at Kathmandu University, including Amol Acharya and Shekhar KC, for their assistance while conducting this research.
Nirmala Mani Adhikary
Asst. Professor of Media Studies
Department of Languages and Mass Communication
Kathmandu University

Abstract:
The present research studies the readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies published from Kathmandu. It measures the readability scores of six Nepali broadsheet dailies using the ‘Cloze procedure’. Comparing readability scores of these newspapers, it also seeks to identify the broadsheet daily, which is considered most readable by the readers.

Chapter I
Introduction
1.1. Background
There are wide areas of research in print media. As Wimmer and Dominick (2005) observe, newspaper and magazine researchers conduct six basic types of studies: readership, circulation, management, typography/makeup, readability, and online media use (p. 308). Readability research “can be conducted on any textual material to determine whether it is suitable for an intended audience” (Buddenbaum and Novak, 2005, p. 195).
Readability has been defined as “the sum total of all the elements and their interactions that affect the success of a piece of printed material. Success is measured by the extent to which readers understand the piece, are able to read it at an optimal speed, and find it interesting” (Wimmer and Dominick, 2005, p. 319). Readability research addresses the question: “How easy is it for readers to follow newspaper stories?” (Gunter, 2000, p. 73). For this, the textual elements that affect comprehension of a message are studied. “Readability studies are designed to draw inferences from writing style about whether people can understand the message” (Buddenbaum and Novak, 2005, p. 195).
The readers’ comprehension is a must for published news contents to be useful to the people. It cannot be considered as information if it is not communicated to the audiences (Adhikary, 2008, p. 45). The present research has been designed to study whether the contents of Nepali broadsheet dailies are being considered readable by the readers or not. Of available methods for readability research, ‘Cloze procedure’ developed by Taylor (1953) has been employed for present research. It is chosen, because it has been considered “better predictor of evaluations than several other common readability tests” (Gunter, 2000, p. 74).
This research is aimed for measuring the readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies published from Kathmandu. It is concerned with how comprehensible the content of the newspapers is likely to be found by the readers. Comparing readability score of these newspapers, it also seeks to identify the broadsheet daily, which is considered most readable by the readers.
This is the first ever study to measure the readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies. Hence the research contributes in exploring new avenue of media research in Nepal, and also provides a basis for further research on readability of Nepali newspapers.
1.2. Problem Statement
Readability is an important aspect of any printed content. It matters whether readers understand what newspapers are publishing or not. It also matters whether they find the text interesting and easy to read. Without higher level of readability, the message cannot be comprehend by the reader and thus become worthless to them. So it is pertinent to study the readability of newspapers to find out if they are really fulfilling the responsibility of disseminating information for the people. No research has been conducted yet regarding the readability of Nepali newspapers. This research measures the readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies published from Kathmandu, and also compares the readability scores of them.

1.3. Objectives
• To measure the readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies published from Kathmandu
• To compare readability score of Nepali broadsheet dailies of Kathmandu in order to identify the most readable one of them
• To provide a basis for further research on readability of Nepali newspapers
1.4. Research Questions
This research does not have any hypotheses; rather, it has following research questions:
• How much readability score do Nepali broadsheet dailies published from Kathmandu get?
• Which newspaper among Nepali broadsheet dailies of Kathmandu is being considered most readable by the readers?
1.5. Justification of the Study
The practice of journalism in Nepal has a history of more than a century. The first periodical from Nepal, Sudhasagar, a literary magazine, was published in the year 1898 AD. On Monday, 1901 May 6, Gorkhapatra weekly was published, which has been considered as foundation of Nepali journalism. In the course of time, Nepali journalism has progressed significantly. Journalism has already entered to a new era, where it is a profession rather than hobby or political mission. Moreover, journalism has become an industry in its own right.
The rise of journalism industry has been accompanied by academic endeavors. The study of journalism has been introduced to secondary school level education. The higher secondary education board offers courses on mass communication and journalism for grade XI and XII. Tribhuvan University, Purvanchal University and Kathmandu University are offering wide range of courses on journalism and allied sectors. Journalism has already been recognized as a discipline of knowledge.
However, the rise of journalism, both as profession/industry and discipline of knowledge, does not seem accelerating the growth of research in journalism sector. Some research studies have been conducted and magazines, journals, and in-house publications publish some research articles but many aspects and approaches are still unexplored (Adhikary, 2006, p. 192).
Readability research is not an exception. No study has been conducted yet in Nepal regarding the readability of newspapers. But readability is no such thing which is to be ignored like this. Readability studies can provide valuable information. Better readability is one of such factors which contribute for the success of newspapers. “Whether or not readers can understand what they are reading, find it interesting and are able to read it without feeling they are being required to make a lot of effort could make a difference to whether they will return to read that publication again” (Gunter, 2000, p. 73). Higher level of readability suggests that the printed message (for e.g., news) is of some use to readers, which newspapers often claim. Without readability, the message becomes worthless. Thus readability research is a vital area of research on newspapers.
It is in this background, the present research is conducted. Since this is the first ever endeavor to research the readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies the research contributes in exploring new avenue of media research in Nepal, and also provide a basis for further research on readability of Nepali newspapers.

Chapter II
Literature Review
Readability of print media including newspapers has been concern of researchers. There have been efforts to develop techniques to study how comprehensible the printed message is likely to be found by the readers. To determine the readability of text, various techniques have been developed. The following discussions in this section is adopted from Gunter (2000) and Wimmer and Dominick (2005).
One of the best known formulas to determine readability is the Reading Ease Formula developed by Flesch (1948). This technique involves selecting systematically 100 words from the text, determining the total number of syllables in those words (wl), determining the average number of words per sentence (sl), and performing a calculation as following:
Reading ease = 206.835 – 0.846wl – 1.015sl
The score is compared to a chart providing a description of style.
Gunning (1952) presented Fog Index to measure readability. Here, researchers systematically select samples of 100 words each, determine the mean sentence length by dividing the number of words by the number of sentences, count the number of words with three or more syllables, add the mean sentence length to the number of words with three or more syllables, and multiply this sum by 0.4.
Taylor (1953) developed the ‘Cloze procedure’ as a method for measuring readability. The researcher chooses a passage of about 250-300 words, deletes every fifth word from a random starting point and replaces it with a blank. The researcher then gives the passage to subjects and asks them to fill the blanks with what they think are the correct words; he or she then counts the number of times the blanks are replaced with the correct words. The number of correct words or the percentage of correct replacement constitutes the readability score for that passage.
McLaughlin (1969) proposed a readability index named SMOG Grading (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook Grading). Here, the researcher selects 10 consecutive sentences near the beginning of the text, 10 from the middle, and 10 from the end, and then counts every word of three or more syllables and takes the square root of the total. The number thus obtained represents the reading grade that a person must have reached to understand the text.
Nestvold (1972) used the ‘Cloze procedure’ to study readability. He found Cloze procedure scores highly correlated with readers’ own evaluations of content difficulty. He found that the Cloze procedure as a better predictor of evaluations.
Hoskins (1973) studied the readability levels of Associated Press and United Press International wire copy. He found that common readers did not easily comprehend the text. Thus, both services scored in the ‘difficult’ range.
Smith (1984) studied readability of different categories of newspaper content. He found that different contents have differences in readability. His research revealed that features and entertainment were more readable whereas national-international or state and local news were less readable.
Porter and Stephens (1989) conducted a readability research employing Flesch’s reading ease formula. They found that the hard news stories were written at an average 12th-grade level.
Bodle (1996) compared the readability levels of a sample of student newspapers with a sample of private-sector papers. He found that the private-sector dailies had a higher score than the student papers.
As evident from above discussion, number of readability studies has been conducted by employing various methods. But, no readability research of newspaper contents has been conducted yet in Nepal. The proposed research uses the ‘Cloze procedure’ for measuring readability.

Chapter III
Research Design
3.1. Methodology of the Study
3.1.1. Universe of the Study
The set of all relevant documents constitutes the universe of the study. The research problem itself specifies the boundaries of the body of content to be considered to define the universe. Thus, the contents of Nepali broadsheet dailies published in various issues within the specified time interval are included under the universe. Specifically, the universe of the study for this research has been defined as following:
“This study considers the news contents on the front pages of six Nepali broadsheet dailies (Annapurna Post, Gorkhapatra, Kantipur, Nagarik, Nepal Samacharpatra and Rajdhani) published from Kathmandu within the specified time period.”
3.1.2. Data Collection Techniques
This research uses primary data. For data collection, the ‘Cloze procedure’ has been used, which was developed by Taylor (1953). It involves providing selected passages (published texts) of about 250-300 words from newspapers, where every fifth word is deleted from a random starting point and replaced with a blank, to the subjects (respondents) and asking them to fill the blanks with what they think are the correct words. The researchers then count the frequency of occurrence of ‘correct replacement’ and ‘incorrect replacement’. Thus, quantitative data is provided for the study.
3.1.3. Sampling
This research has employed multistage sampling as mentioned below.
• First stage: This stage involves selecting the newspapers. Here, purposive sampling has been employed to ensure inclusion of mainstream broadsheet dailies. The six broadsheet dailies included in the sample are: Annapurna Post, Gorkhapatra, Kantipur, Nagarik, Nepal Samacharpatra, and Rajdhani.
• Second stage: This stage involves selecting the pages of newspapers from which the text for readability study is to be taken. Here, front pages of the newspapers are selected.
• Third stage: This stage involves selecting the dates for identifying the issues of above mentioned newspapers to be studied. Three issues (of 2010 May 15, 16 and 17) of above mentioned newspapers have been selected in this regard.
• Fourth stage: This stage involves selecting the particular text as required for the ‘Cloze procedure’. For this, news contents published on the top right of the front pages are selected.
With the completion of fourth stage, different passages, one each from news contents in each issue of above mentioned six newspapers within specified time period, are sampled for the readability test.
• Fifth stage: This stage involves selecting the subjects (respondents). For this, 250 undergraduate students from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Kavre districts have been selected employing non-probability sampling technique.
3.1.4. Variables and Measures
This research involves only categorical variables. Such variables are made up of a set of attributes that form a category. The categorical variables for this study are: ‘correct replacement’ (i.e., the blank replaced with the correct word) and ‘incorrect replacement’ (i.e., the blank replaced with an incorrect word).
It is to note that the categorical variables do not represent a numerical measure or scale themselves. However, there is scope for quantification if frequency of occurrence is counted. This research involves nominal level of measurement by counting the frequency of occurrence of each category namely ‘correct replacement’ and ‘incorrect replacement’.
3.1.5. Techniques of Data Analysis
For data analysis, this research has employed the ‘Cloze procedure’ developed by Taylor (1953). As mentioned above, the data for this research comes from counting the frequencies of occurrences of two categorical variables. The readability score has scaling of nominal measurement and it is susceptible to statistical analysis. The research has been designed to use descriptive statistics for data analysis.
3.2. Limitations of the Study
Readability research inherits a rich tradition and incorporates various methods. It requires enormous amount of resources and efforts to study readability if various methods are employed and study corpus is made large. But, since the proposed research is to be carried out within a limited time period and with limited resources, it would not be feasible to consider a large corpus of study, to cover longer time period, and to employ various techniques of readability research.
Hence, this is designed in such a way that it consists of small study corpus, covers brief time period, and uses one technique readability study. Particularly, it considers only the news content on the right top of front pages of six Nepali broadsheet dailies of brief time period, and employs only the ‘Cloze procedure’ for measuring readability.
In this background, the research essentially has become exploratory. As such, its findings are best suited for providing the basis for further research.

Chapter IV
Presentation and Analysis of Data
(Note: The original research report consists of several figures, which are not included here in this post.)
4.1. Readability Scores of Different Newspapers
The data presented in this section have come from counting the frequencies of occurrences of two categorical variables – correct replacement and incorrect replacement, and the blanks left without any replacement have been considered as ‘can’t replace’. Then, descriptive statistics has been used for data analysis.
4.1.1. Readability of Annapurna Post
The respondents could replace only 34% correctly, where as 54% were replaced incorrectly and 12% were not replaced at all.
Thus, Annapurna Post has got readability score of 0.34.

4.1.2. Readability of Gorkhapatra
The respondents could replace only 39% correctly, where as 51% were replaced incorrectly and 10% were not replaced at all.
Thus, Gorkhapatra has got readability score of 0.39.
4.1.3. Readability of Kantipur
The respondents could replace only 38% correctly, where as 53% were replaced incorrectly and 9% were not replaced at all.
Thus, Kantipur has got readability score of 0.38.
4.1.4. Readability of Nagarik
The respondents could replace only 26% correctly, where as 59% were replaced incorrectly and 15% were not replaced at all.
Thus, Nagarik has got readability score of 0.26.
4.1.5. Readability of Nepal Samacharpatra
The respondents could replace only 30% correctly, where as 61% were replaced incorrectly and 9% were not replaced at all.
Thus, Nepal Samacharpatra has got readability score of 0.30.
4.1.6. Readability of Rajdhani
The respondents could replace only 26% correctly, where as 57% were replaced incorrectly and 17% were not replaced at all.
Thus, Rajdhani has got readability score of 0.26.
4.2. Readability of Newspapers Compared
The readability scores of different newspapers have been presented in a table below. As evident from above table, the readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies is fairly low as none of the newspapers could get readability of more than 50%. However, Gorkhapatra (readability score 0.39) has been considered the most readable newspaper followed by Kantipur (readability score 0.38), Annapurna Post (readability score 0.34), and Nepal Samacharpatra (readability score 0.30). Both Nagarik and Rajdhani (readability score 0.26) have been considered the least readable ones.

Chapter V
Findings

The present research has following two major findings:
1. The readability of Nepali broadsheet dailies is fairly low.
2. Gorkhapatra has been considered the most readable newspaper followed by Kantipur, Annapurna Post and Nepal Samacharpatra. Both Nagarik and Rajdhani have been considered the least readable ones.
References
Adhikary, N. M. (2006). Understanding mass media research. Kathmandu: Prashanti Pustak Bhandar.
Adhikary, N. M. (2008). Communication, media and journalism: An integrated study. Kathmandu: Prashanti Prakashan.
Bodle, J. V. (1996). Assessing news quality: A comparison between community and student daily newspapers. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 73(3), 672-686.
Buddenbaum, J. M., and Novak, K. B. (2005). Applied communication research. Oxford: Blackwell.
Flesch, R. (1948). A new readability yardstick. Journal of Applied Psychology, 32(2), 221-233.
Gunning, R. (1952). The technique of clear writing. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Gunter, B. (2000). Media research methods: Measuring audiences, reactions and impact. London: Sage.
Hoskins, R. (1973). A readability study of AP and UPI wire copy. Journalism Quarterly, 50(2), 360-362.
McLaughlin, H. (1969). SMOG grading: A new readability formula. Journal of Reading, 22(4), 639-646.
Nestvold, K. (1972). Cloze procedure correlation with perceived readability. Journalism Quarterly, 49(3), 592-594.
Porter, W. C., and Stephens, F. (1989). Estimating readability: A study of Utah editors’ abilities. Newspaper Research Journal, 10(2), 87-96.
Smith, R. (1984). How consistently do readability tests measure the difficulty of newswriting? Newspaper Research Journal, 5(4), 1-8.
Taylor, W. (1953). Cloze procedure: A new tool for measuring readability. Journalism Quarterly, 30(4), 415-433.
Wimmer, R. D., and Dominick, J. R. (2005). Mass media research: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Click here to read another readability research conducted after this one.

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