The State of the News Media 2013
Economics Key Findings
Nearly a third of U.S. adults have stopped using a news outlet because it no longer met their needs.
That’s not surprising when you consider that low-cost sports, weather and traffic information now account for 40% of the content produced on the average local newscast.
The population of full-time professional newsroom employees fell below 40,000 for the first time since 1978. It’s down nearly 30% from its 1989 high.
In an election year, the declines in coverage were particularly evident. Live broadcast reports fell from from 33% of the news hole in 2007 to 23% in 2012. And 2007 was not an election year. Commentary and opinion, which are cheap to produce, now make up 63% of news airtime on cable channels, while straight news reporting comprises only 37%.
An examination of 48 recent evening and morning newscasts found that 20 led with a weather-related story. Weather coverage is cheap.
Only about a quarter of statements in the media about the character and records of the presidential candidates originated with journalists, while twice that many came from political partisans. The report runs down a list of informational websites that political parties and advocacy groups have set up to influence media, but some are now actually becoming the media. Pew notes several examples of major news magazines that have carried partisan reports as part of their branded news stream.
In that vein, Pew notes a 2008 analysis of Census Bureau data by Robert McChesney and John Nichols that found that the ratio of public relations workers to journalists tripled from 1.2-to-1 in 1980 to 3.6-to-1 in 2008. That gap has likely grown since then.
In summary, “News organizations are less equipped to question what is coming to them or to uncover the stories themselves, and interest groups are better equipped and have more technological tools than ever,” Pew states.
Incredibly (to us, at least), the public is mostly unaware that the news media is struggling. Only 39% of the 2,000 consumers surveyed said they have much awareness of the industry’s problems.
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