Press Release

State Of The News Media Study Finds Blogs, Other Forms of News Competing With Traditional Journalism

  • March 14, 2005

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Traditional journalism, with its focus on substantiating facts, now competes with other models of news, such as Blogs. These faster, cheaper and less accurate alternatives have distinct advantages in the marketplace, according to a new report on the state of journalism in America.

What's more, Blogs, or personal web logs, have added to this challenge with a new philosophy: publish first and assume the verification process will occur in the response and argument that follow.

The study, “The State of the American News Media, 2005” was produced by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a research institute affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. It is the second effort in the group's annual efforts to assess the state of journalism.

As traditional media continue to lose audience, the report suggests moreover, news organizations will be tempted to cut back on news gathering and change standards to compete with the new models.

“In effect, Americans are shifting from being consumers of news to pro-active partners in creating their own personalized news account each day, and traditional journalism is only part of that mix,” said Project Director Tom Rosenstiel. “This amounts to a new kind American citizenship with more responsibilities for the consumer.”

The study offers an overview on the state of the news media landscape and then provides detailed chapters on nine different sectors of the press--newspapers, magazines, network television, cable television, local television, the Internet, radio, the ethnic press and alternative media.

For each sector, it examines six different areas: audience, economics, ownership, newsroom investment, and public attitudes. It puts in one place all the major data about journalism—plus significant original research. Among the findings:

  • The notion of growing partisan media has been overstated. While this new “Journalism of Affirmation” is growing, audiences are not splitting along ideological lines. Only cable and talk radio have done so. The audiences of most media reflect the population fairly well—except for age.     
  • Only three sectors of the media continue to show audience growth—the ethnic press, alternative weeklies and the Internet. In 2003 alone, 14 new Spanish language newspapers were launched.     
  • The newspaper industry, which already lost 500 more newsroom jobs in 2003, had a tough 2004, with fewer than expected growth in revenue, circulation scandals, low stock prices and more cutbacks in the newsroom. At the same time, the industry still earned profits of more than 20%, according to analyst estimates.     
  • Cable news is measurably thinner in its reporting than broadcast news. Cable stories rely on fewer and less transparent sources, contain more journalistic opinion and reflect fewer viewpoints.     
  • There are clear differences between Fox versus its cable rivals. Fox News stories contain more sources and reveal more about them than those of its competitors, but its stories are also more one-sided and are more opinionated. Indeed, Fox journalists offer their own opinion in seven out of ten stories on the news channel, versus less than one in ten stories on CNN and one in four on MSNBC.     
  • There are clear differences between Fox versus its cable rivals. Fox News stories contain more sources and reveal more about them than those of its competitors, but its stories are also more one-sided and are more opinionated. Indeed, Fox journalists offer their own opinion in seven out of ten stories on the news channel, versus less than one in ten stories on CNN and one in four on MSNBC.     
  • The news industry is taking the same cautious pay-as-you-go approach to the Internet that seems likely to cede ground to non-journalism competitors. Even though audiences are growing, Internet journalists are almost twice as likely as TV, print and radio journalists to report that their newsrooms have suffered cutbacks.     
  • There is little sign the major news web sites are taking advantage of the technology of the Internet. Less than a third of lead stories on news sites studied included video links or allowed users to sort through data.     
  • Network news faces the biggest moment of transitional change in 2005 that it has faced since the 1980s, when a new generation of anchors and a new pressure for profitably changed the face of the networks.     
  • Morning news is becoming the financial engine of the networks. While evening news audiences continued to decline in 2004, morning audiences were flat. ABC's Good Morning America was growing, while NBC's Today Show was declining. Only the first 20 minutes of morning news tend to contain traditional news about significant events.

“The news is moving from being an organized, prepared lecture to a free-flowing conversation, with all the advantages and disadvantages that implies,” said Mr. Rosenstiel. “The process is more open, but, paradoxically, it is also more prone to manipulation by those who want to shape public opinion. The cases of the government hiring commentators and creating faux web sites are part of this phenomenon.”

The study, which contains detailed charts, graphs and citations, can be accessed online at www.stateofthemedia.org 

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Cindy L. Jobbins

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