State of News Media 2010: More evidence journalists must change

The Project for Excellence in Journalism just released its State of the News Media 2010 report.  Here are four of the most important major trends. 

  • News consumers “are hunting the news by topic and by event and grazing across multiple outlets.”  This puts more pressure than ever on journalists to make important news interesting and relevant.
  • In trying to predict the future, the authors suggest that journalists must continue to figure out how to work with people formerly known as the audience in newsgathering and presentation of content:   “One concept that will get more attention is collaborations of old media and citizens in what some call a “pro-am” (professional and amateur) model for news.”
  • Journalists appear to be falling short in the area of objective news reporting.  According to the study, “72% of Americans feel now most news sources are biased in their coverage.”  The question — is objectivity an unattainable and/or outdated concept?  If unbiased coverage is still important, what should journalists do differently to mititgate bias? 
  • Technology is causing news organizations to place greater emphasis on breaking news than ever before:  “Shrinking newsrooms are asking their remaining ranks to produce first accounts more quickly and feed multiple platforms.”  It’s critical that journalists become familiar with the tools that allow information to be disseminated quickly.

Other key points from the study include more specifics on what’s happening to the audience — the news for local TV is not good.

We’ve been getting used to the news about such audience losses in the newspaper industry, but the following should serve as a wake up call for local TV newsrooms:

According to PEJ analysis of Nielsen data, viewership of the late news fell an average of 6.4% in 2009, four times the rate of a year earlier. Early evening news, at the dinner hour, fell 6.7% (similar to 2008). And early morning news, the programs that air prior to network morning shows that have been an island of relative stability for audiences, fell by 5.5% on average.

And it’s no surprise that the loss of audience has an impact on employment at local stations as well.

In local TV news, PEJ estimated that about 450 jobs were lost at stations in 2009, on top of 1,200 jobs lost in 2008. Despite staff reductions, the average amount of news increased to 4.6 hours, from 4.1 hours the previous year. Researcher Robert Papper estimates that local TV newsroom staffing peaked in 2007.

The report is rich in detail on the economic issues facing local TV, as well as the need for continued experimentation and innovation on the editorial and business sides of journalism organizations.

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