Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Slow collapse of journalism in America 

To be fair to the press corpse, it's hard to do stuff like, you know, actual reporting, let alone investigative journalism, when the newsroom budget is being cut back.

Most American news media are experiencing a steady decline in audiences and are significantly cutting their investment in staff and resources, according to a report issued yesterday.

The study on the state of the US news media by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which is affiliated to Columbia University's graduate journalism school, found that only ethnic, alternative and online media were flourishing.

"Trust in journalism has been declining for a generation," said the project director, Tom Rosenstiel. "This study suggests one reason is that news media are locked in a vicious cycle. As audiences fragment, newsrooms are cut back, which further erodes public trust."

Circulation of English-language daily newspapers has dropped 11% since 1990; network news ratings are down 34% since 1994; late-night local television news viewership has fallen by 16% since 1997; and the number of viewers watching cable news has been flat since late 2001.

On the positive side, Spanish-language newspaper circulation has nearly quadrupled over the past 13 years and advertising revenues are up sevenfold.

The report catalogued a striking decline in the number of journalists employed in American newsrooms.

There are one-third fewer network correspondents than in 1985; 2,200 fewer people at newspapers than in 1990; and the number of full-time radio newsroom employees fell by 44% from 1994 to 2001.
(via Guardian)

What's unconsionable is that the journalists who are doing the wrong thing—whoring it up as spinners and talking heads—are raking in the bucks, while hard-working reporters get nothing. Ah, corporate America...

Note that this is bad for us, too, in the blogosphere—unless and until we develop our own reporting infrastructure, so we can break stories instead of commenting on them. But that takes time, money, and a lot of years.

Meanwhile, corporate America seems quite content with American citizens knowing less and less about their country and the world. I wonder why?

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