In the news media, a continued erosion of reporting resources has converged with growing opportunities for newsmakers, such as political figures, government agencies, companies and others, to take their messages directly to the public. The public, for its part, is not very aware of the financial struggles that have led to the news industry's cutbacks in reporting, but nearly one-in-three (31%) say they have stopped turning to a particular news outlet because it no longer provides the news they were accustomed to getting. These are among the major findings in the Pew Research Center's 2013 State of the News Media report, its 10th annual report on the health and status of American journalism.
The report pinpoints multiple signs of shrinking reporting power. For newspapers, estimates for newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put industry employment down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 employees for the first time since 1978. On local television, where audiences were down across every key time slot in 2012, news stories have shrunk in length, and, compared with 2005, coverage of government has been cut in half and sports, weather and traffic now account for 40% of the content. On cable, coverage of live events during the day, which often requires a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012, while interview segments were up 31%. And among news magazines, the end of Newsweek's print edition coincided with another round of staff cuts, and Time, the only general news print magazine left, announced cuts of roughly 5% in early 2013 as a part of broader company layoffs.
This adds up to a news industry that is more understaffed and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.
"There are all sorts of contributors in the evolving landscape of news and, in many ways, more opportunities for citizens to access information," says Amy Mitchell, acting director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. "But there are more signs than ever that the reduced reporting power in the news industry is having an effect and may weaken both the industry's capacity to produce in-depth journalism and its credibility with the public at the same time that others are gaining more voice."
Read the full report, "The State of the News Media 2013," at stateofthemedia.org.