In its annual ‘State of the Media’ report on American journalism, Pew Research Centre — an independent ‘fact tank’ — has highlighted a crisis in news reporting in the traditional media as a result of continued ‘erosion of reporting resources’. This is happening at a time when other ‘interest groups’ are ‘better equipped’, and have more ‘technological tools’ to push their messages.

The report says that in newspapers, estimates for newsroom cuts in 2012 ‘put industry employment down 30 per cent since its peak in 2000’, with less than 40,000 full-time professionals for the first time since 1978. On local television, ‘audiences went down…news stories have shrunk in length…and coverage of government has been cut in half’.

On cable news, coverage of live events fell, while interview segments and commentary, which cost less, increased. Story packages on CNN were cut in half from 2007 to 2012.

Among news magazines, the end of Newsweek’s print edition coincided with staff cuts, while Time ‘announced cuts of roughly 5 per cent’ in early 2013.

“This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to cover stories, dig deep into emerging ones, or to question information put into its hands,” said the research centre in a statement.

On the other hand, governments, campaign managers, business entities, public relations firms, have stepped up their offensive, with PR workers having out-numbered journalists on a ratio of 3.6 to 1 in 2008. “Distinguishing high-quality information of public value and agenda-driven news has become an increasingly complicated task.”

Alternate revenue

Traditional media outlets are finally veering towards a revenue model to leverage their online presence. In U.S., 450 out of 1380 dailies have started or announced plans for ‘paid content subscription or pay wall plan’.

The report says, “Digital subscriptions are seen as an increasingly vital component of any new business model for journalism.”

With its two-year old digital subscription scheme, The New York Times now has 640,000 online subscribers, and its circulation revenue has exceeded its advertising revenue. The trend of sponsored ads, which runs the risk of confusing the readers between news content and paid promotion, has increased.

But news organisations are struggling to tap into two new and growing areas of digital revenue — mobiles and local digital advertising. Six companies, none of which produce news, have garnered 72 per cent of the $2.6-billion mobile advertising revenue. Big players like Facebook and Google are diverting revenue away from local news.

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