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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.

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