Financial Woes Now Overshadow All Other Concerns for Journalists

  • March 17, 2008

The financial crisis facing news organizations is so grave that it is now overshadowing concerns about the quality of news coverage, the flagging credibility of the news media, and other problems that have been very much on the minds of journalists over the past decade.

An ever larger majority of journalists at national media outlets -- 62% -- says that journalism is going in the wrong direction, an increase from the 51% who expressed this view in 2004. Half of internet journalists and about the same proportion of local journalists (49%) also take a negative view of the state of their profession.

Soaring economic worries underlie these sour assessments. In an open-ended format, 55% of journalists at national news organizations cite a financial or economic concern as the most important problem facing journalism, up from just 30% in 2004. The proportion of local journalists citing an economic problem also has increased sharply since 2004 (from 35% to 52%). In addition, about half of internet journalists (48%) -- those who work for web-only news organizations or the websites of print, broadcast or cable news outlets -- point to a financial concern as the greatest problem facing the profession.

As financial concerns have risen, fewer journalists cite the quality of coverage and the loss of credibility with the public as the most important problems facing journalism. Among national journalists, just 22% mention the quality of coverage as the biggest problem facing the profession, down from 41% in 2004. The proportion of local journalists citing the quality of coverage also has declined since 2004, from 33% to 21%.

For many, the financial problems confronting journalism are directly tied to the rise of journalism on the internet. Overall, 16% of national journalists -- including 26% of those working in print -- cite the current business model for journalism, or the specific challenge of making a profit from web journalism, as the most important problem facing journalism.

However, the national and local journalists surveyed make clear distinctions between the internet's impact on the news business, which they view with alarm, and the ways that the Web has transformed journalism, many of which the journalists view quite positively.

The survey of journalists was conducted Sept. 17-Dec. 3, 2007 among 585 reporters, editors and news executives by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Read the full report Financial Woes Now Overshadow All Other Concerns for Journalists on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.