PPC-NYC members met to explore the topic “Foundation and Nonprofit Websites as Genuine News Outlets – What are the models, the biggest successes and the possibilities for the future?” Our discussion leader, Steven Waldman, was most recently FCC Senior Advisor to the Chairman and is the author of the report “Information Needs of Communities.”
The Dismal State of Journalism
The discussion started with Waldman detailing the condition of investigative journalism, community reporting, in-depth issue coverage and the traditional news media in general. Some key facts:
From 2005 to 2009, newspaper online traffic doubled and digital revenue grew to $716 million. But that hardly offset the losses among newspaper companies of $2 billion in the print side of the business. “Print dollars being replaced by digital dimes,” Waldman characterized the situation.
Spending in newsrooms on reporting staff dropped by 1/3, to a level not seen since before the early 1970s.
Coverage of public affairs – especially focusing on courts, schools, legal affairs, state house, education, etc. – has deeply diminished.
Fewer people cover more (more counties, more beats, more duties—tweet, blog, write, etc.)
With fewer staff, traditional media have shifted coverage towards more easily reported institutions and reporting “official accounts of events” drawn from press releases.
Stories that require intensive investigation and longer time-frames – like misuse of tax dollars – are increasingly rare.
While the volume of local TV news has increased, the quality has arguably diminished, with a greater orientation toward “if it bleeds it leads.” TV news has more coverage of crime and less public affairs. TV news is not filling the print newspaper gap.
At the same time, radio, magazines and cable news are all reducing staff.
Can New Media Fill the Gap?
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