March 18, 2013
As the news media’s reporting resources continue to dwindle, political figures, government agencies and companies are taking advantage of growing opportunities to send their messages directly to the public through social media.
According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 “State of the News Media” report, these converging forces have left the media short-staffed and ill-equipped to uncover stories or question information, complicating the task of distinguishing between high-quality information of public value and agenda-driven news.
Reduced reporting power “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,” said Amy Mitchell, acting director of the Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. During the 2012 presidential election, reporters acted more like megaphones than investigators of assertions put forward by the campaigns, the report found.
Nearly a third of the American public say they have stopped following a particular news outlet because it doesn’t provide the news that it used to, but 60 percent have heard little to nothing about the financial struggles that news organizations have faced as advertising revenue has shifted to the Internet.
Newspaper newsrooms were an estimated 30 percent smaller in 2012 compared to their peak in 2000, while local television — still a top news source for Americans — now offers shorter stories to smaller audiences. Local-TV coverage of government has been cut in half since 2005, with sports, weather and traffic now making up 40 percent of content.
On cable, coverage of live events fell by 30 percent from 2007 to 2012, as interview segments grew by 31 percent. Time, the only general-news print magazine left, announced layoffs of about 5 percent in early 2013. A growing number of media outlets, including Forbes magazine, now use computer algorithms to produce content without human reporting. — Greg Beaubien