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Boston reporting and Pew’s ‘State of the News Media’


Credit: PEJ

Information or confirmation. Whatever you want to know about the status of American news media today is probably in the Pew Research Center’s extensive The State of the News Media 2013: An Annual Report on American Journalism released last month. Probably few will read the massive report from beginning to end, choosing instead only sections of particular interest such as Key Findings or The Changing TV News Landscape. Either way, the overall picture is grim.

From the report’s overview:

In 2012, a continued erosion of news reporting resources converged with growing opportunities for those in politics, government agencies, companies and others to take their messages directly to the public.

Signs of the shrinking reporting power are documented throughout this year’s report. Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978. In local TV, our special content report reveals, sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts studied while story lengths shrink. On CNN, the cable channel that has branded itself around deep reporting, produced story packages were cut nearly in half from 2007 to 2012. Across the three cable channels, coverage of live events during the day, which often require a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012 while interview segments, which tend to take fewer resources and can be scheduled in advance, were up 31%. Time magazine, the only major print news weekly left standing, cut roughly 5% of its staff in early 2013 as a part of broader company layoffs. …

And then an eerily timely statement:

… This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.

One can’t help thinking of last week’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the egregious reporting errors made by the media, particularly CNN and the New York Post.


  1. “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one,” as they say. If mainstream news goes bankrupt, all content will be provided by people/companies with money to burn on getting their point across. Won’t be pretty.


    • It’s already pretty ugly. And seems to get worse by the day. Particularly alarming is consolidation like this:

      Comcast continued to consolidate its control over NBCUniversal. In February 2013, the cable giant bought General Electric’s 49% stake in NBCU—which includes the network news division along with cable properties such as MSNBC and CNBC—about a year earlier than industry experts had expected. This means that Comcast is the sole owner of NBC, instead of just owning a majority of the network.

      The move by Comcast echoed its July 2012 purchase of Microsoft’s stake in to give Comcast sole ownership. In a coinciding branding shift, became, and in early 2013, re-emerged as a site just for the cable channel. Comcast now owns the entire digital business of NBC News.


  2. But don’t forget, there’s always blogs.
    Mainstream media/newspapers seems to be relying on young inexperienced writers who often choose cleverness over neutral reporting. The errors are horrendous….like today one article was discussing 5 reasons why…but the article ran out of room after 2 – and there was no “continued on page..”. It just stopped.
    Understaffed means no proofing or editing….the cut and pastes are pretty rough and often the final product isn’t coherent.
    It is going to be ugly


  3. Seems like yesterday when I’d awake early and walk to the Seven Eleven across from Wrigley Field and purchase the NYT,WSJ, Chi-Town Trib, Sun Times and USA Today. Now down to NYT on-line subscription and Saturday dead tree WSJ. I used to love print stained fingers.

    Today, I often find twitter to be a great source of hard news. It all depends on who you follow.

    Yes it’s bad out there for news in-depth. But I think when tablets get more sophisticated and business models and advertising mature, news organizations are going to reboot and thrive. A little Buck Rogers here…but when tablets go tactile and pliable, then old school will kick in, and the click through will feel passé, and what’s above the “fold” will once again matter.

    Then again…there is always S.E. Cupp.


    • Yes, I miss the old print stained fingers too. And the papers that stained them. That finally stopped when the gutter instead of my porch became the target for the carriers.

      Unfortunately the cable news channels seem to think the Cupps of the world are the way to go. Horrifying to think they have no more respect than that for their audiences.


  4. My view of journalism is from outside the profession, looking in, but for what it’s worth I see the quality of news reporting declining because competition is declining. We used to have both AP and UPI, now it’s just AP. Our local paper has relegated national news to the back pages, what there is of it, and now reports mostly on local stuff with very little of an investigative nature. I like USA Today and even it’s brief format, but with the death of Al Neuharth I’m concerned the quality will last – it has beaten all the competition for its niche. Time Magazine still has quality writing, but its size continues to shrink. And probably worst of all, digital distractions seem to be sucking away the demand for quality in favor of superficiality. Oh Brave New World . . .


    • Makes me want my mommy, my old daily newspaper, and my weekly Time Magazine. Bad enough to see what’s happening to the news media, but to think it’s happening because the populace demands no better .. ugh!


  5. Fascinating post. I just stumbled upon your blog, and I really appreciate what I see so far. In fact, your point about the news media makes me wonder if good blogging has become a more reliable source of information.

    To tell you the truth, I feel like I find out a lot more about the world through the blogs I read than through the six o’clock news. Usually, bloggers are forthright about their biases.


    • I make no pretense about my biases, because my opinion is all I have to offer. Media with reporting staffs have to dig up and report the actual news. No one else can do that.


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