Welcome to the ‘sad state of the media’

The Pew Research Center has come out with its 10th annual report on the state of the media in the U.S. They should just rename it the “sad state of the media.”

The section on newspapers opens with a quote from a 1920s blues song: “Been down so long it looks like up to me.”

Today there are fewer than 40,000 newspaper newsroom employees, the lowest number ever found since the newsroom census began in 1978 and down 30 percent since just 2000.

I’m not sure how many newsroom employees remain at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, but the down 30 percent figure sounds about right. As of this past September the print circulation of the paper had fallen to 129,000, though at one time it was nearly 200,000. I’ve heard unconfirmed reports it is considerably lower now.

But don’t cry for the poor journalists and newspaper owners, cry for the poor citizens who are news poor and headed to news poverty.

Fewer newsroom employees means fewer news stories and less depth in what there is. And it is not just newspapers, Pew reports that local TV news is now 40 percent sports, weather and traffic. CNN has cut “produced story packages” in half from 2007 to 2012. The three major cable news channels have cut live event coverage 30 percent from 2007 to 2012.

“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,” Pew noted. “And findings from our new public opinion survey released in this report reveal that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.”

Additionally, businesses, governments and organizations are cutting out the news media middle man and going directly to the public. An analysis of Census Bureau data found the “ratio of public relations workers to journalists grew from 1.2 to 1 in 1980 to 3.6 to 1 in 2008 — and the gap has likely only widened since.”

Perhaps some of the most startling and dismaying stats come from analysis of the 2012 election coverage.

“In the 2012 campaign, only about one quarter of the statements in the media about the character and records of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney came directly from journalists while about half came from political partisans,” Pew found. “In 2000, half of the statements about the presidential candidates came from the media and only about one-third from the partisans.”

Here is a Pew video about the election coverage:

Advertising revenue is the key figure contributing to the bottom line erosion:

While online ad revenue has doubled, print ad revenue has been cut in half and the total of the two is half.

And many are abandoning news sources because they no longer serve their needs.

14 comments on “Welcome to the ‘sad state of the media’

  1. Steve says:

    Perhaps anecdotal but it seems as we lose news sources the country becomes more divided.

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    Old quotation, (There is some shit a man won’t eat.” With television and the Internet, the content of newspapers is old news before it hits the driveway. The Internet contains differing opinions while television is onscreen histrionics, tiresome individuals attempting to have serious miens, largely spouting leftist propaganda. None seem to realize that there can be oversaturation of their gods in politics and celebrity. Obama is on more than the Kardashians, gag, puke, hurl, Throw in endless Cosby, Roseanne, etal., small wonder we are becoming dull brutes

  3. Dull and ignorant brutes.


  4. Rincon says:

    Well said, Thomas

  5. Boyd says:

    Maybe they just found out they could be their own news editor rather than that the quality of news had deteriorated. I can’t recall the last time I picked up a print print newspaper – at least 10 years ago. But I know I am hugely more informed than I was 10 years ago. I can personally dig deep now rather than wade through the sludge editors have to include to appeal to a broad audience.

    I don’t even approach the news in the same way anymore. I seldom first read hard news stories. There is just too much stuff out there. I read commentaries from people I trust and have found can analyze much better I, then I go back and read the primary news source if it interests me. IOW I invented my own newspaper that no one could or was ever likely to supply.

  6. At least you are being informed. Too many aren’t.

  7. Nibot Mus says:

    A BIG part of the media difficulty lies in the contamination that has led to erosion of the news per se in favor of an unreliable mixture of editorial opinion and factual reporting.
    That blend, sprinkled with a healthy flavor of partisanship, has provided an unwholesome banquet that simply becomes not worth the fare. And so, circulation declines with a proportionate diminishment in the advertising bucks, the lifeblood of the newws service.
    I recall those wonderful years when the good publications maintained a strict seperation between “news” and “editorial opinion.” Once the opinions of the staff slither out of the “Opinion Section” into the news reporting, the news becomes news no longer, but only propaganda. Think of the N Y Times!

  8. Usually they slither out of the newsroom into the opinion section.


  9. bc says:

    I have not watched network news for years, cannot learn anything from a 30 second news story. Internet is good for keeping up with happenings from other places, for me that means LV although I’ve been gone 10-12 years now. Also good for late breaking stuff, but like television news tends to be somewhat shallow. Mile wide and an inch deep, so to speak.

    You will also never get local news of any worth from the internet. Someone needs to sit through the city council and school board meetings, develop sources on the police force and the government staffs. Never get that on line.

    If you want to know what is going on in the world, need to see it in print. Needs to be written by journalist types and edited by professional editors who understand how to keep the bias out and the copy fact checked. You will never get that from the internet, most of what is on line (other than online editions of newpapers) is opinion. You may agree with this guy so of course it is true or you may think that that gal is a complete bomb thrower and does not have a clue what she is saying, but it is still opinion, not facts.

    Give me newsprint, give me a rolled up paper on my driveway every day, give me something that does not involve spending hours on my computer to read, especially as I spend my work day on the darn thing as it is.

    The death of newspapers is tragic, I hope they can figure the business model out.

  10. Nibot Mus says:

    Nothing better than a good newspaper for news & insight. A good newspaper benefits society more than can be imagined.
    In my earlier life, I was conned into representing my professional association in political matters. My first journey to our state capitol, Sacramento, included a dinner with our lobbiest and a few associates. At a nice supper spot, I noticed a strange phenomina at many of the tables. Guests would converse, but lean over and speak in hushed tones so as not to be overheard.
    I asked the lobbiest what was happening. He pointed out the legislature was now in session and when people discussed politics in public, they had to watch out “for that damned Bee!” He said the Sacramento Bee newspaper found out everything and printed it. I found through the years that California politicians and lobbiests feared and hated the “Bee” for ferreting out corruption. The “Bee” became my favorite news source as it tried to keep the California government honest, an impossible task.A great newspaper!
    The same reason why I once loved the R-J so much.

  11. “The death of newspapers is tragic, I hope they can figure the business model out.”

    They are committing suicide, bc.


  12. Not muchferreting going on now.


  13. bc says:

    In my travels I have read a few different papers. While in Denver I read the Rocky Mountain News (RIP), Houston Chronicle and now the Chicago Tribune. Both the Chronicle and the Trib decided that going smaller was not going to work. Both added pages and raised their subscription rates to match. The Rocky kept going smaller till there was nothing left and down they went. The Chronicle was going strong when I left there three years ago and the Trib is doing well. Don’t know how either of their businesses are running, other than the Trib just came out of bankruptcy due to betting big at the wrong time with a bit of arrogance to go with it.

  14. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is required to get setup? I’m assuming having a
    blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web smart so I’m
    not 100% positive. Any suggestions or advice would
    be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s