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Digital News Sources are Eroding the Power of US News Organizations

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Blurb: This articles describes how digital news sources are slowly eroding the reporting manpower of American news organizations.

Digital news sources are gradually eroding the reporting power of America’s once mighty news organizations, draining their newsrooms of the manpower, talent and financial resources needed to cover emerging stories, according to a report recently issued by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. 

The report, published last March under the title “State of the News Media 2013,” indicates that digital news sources like Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook may be weakening both the American news media’s capacity to produce in-depth journalism and its credibility with the public. 

Digital News Sources are Eroding the Power of US News Organizations

Deteriorating financial state

Much of the decline can be traced back to shrinking advertising revenues.  “Just as news organizations found themselves squeezed out of the first wave of digital ad revenues, the two areas that seemed to bring promise even a year ago now seem already moving outside the reach of news: mobile and local,” the report says. 

The deteriorating financial state of America’s news organizations has caused a string layoffs in the sector in recent years, and these have apparently affected output.  There has been a 30 percent decline in newsroom staff since 2000, according to the report.  Time Magazine, the only major print news weekly still standing, was forced to let go around 5 percent of its staff earlier this year as part of broader company layoffs.  In all, American newspapers now employ less than 40,000 full time professionals — the lowest the industry has seen since 1978.  

The report notes how the loss of valuable manpower and dwindling newsroom budgets have decreased the traditional news media’s ability to dig deep into current events and question information put in its hands.   The same report indicates that a third of Americans have abandoned a news source because they believed the quality of the information it offered was on the decline. 

In September 2012, the Pew Research Center had issued a report  indicating that around 31 percent of Americans now turn to their smartphones and tablets for news.  Apart from Google, Yahoo and social networking sites, more and more US phone service providers (read more) have also begun to offer their customers regular news updates.      

Dwindling audiences, shorter news stories

Sports, weather and traffic now account for some 40 percent of television newscasts even as the average length of news stories continues to fall.  In stark contrast to the heydays of lengthy special news reports, half of all stories presented by local TV news today take less than 30 seconds.  Only 20 percent of the stories exceed a minute. 

A similar trend appears to be taking shape on cable news channels.  The Pew Research Center’s research findings indicate that live reports on cable news programs — which require journalists and camera crews to travel to the site of a story —  have fallen by a third over the past five years.  Meanwhile, interview segments — which are cheaper to produce — rose by some 31 percent during the same period.

Cable news saw a small one percent growth in total viewership last year.   Local TV audiences, on the other hand, were down across every key timeslot in 2012 as the local affiliates of four major networks saw an average audience loss of around 6.5 percent. 

Bright spot

In spite the bad news, however, the Pew Research Center’s report did describe a few promising bright spots for America’s news organizations.  Newspaper circulation appears to have held steady in 2012 after experiencing many years of consecutive decline.  The report in fact indicates that Sunday editions even managed to post some growth.  The report attributes both to digital pay plans and more lenient accounting rules. 

Some of America’s largest newspaper companies have seen revenue growth with their pay walls.  Lee Newspapers, Gannet, and the New York Times have now added a “digital-only” subscription into their circulation options for customers.  The strategy appears to be working for small and mid-sized American newspapers, as well.  Around 450 of the America’s 1,380 daily newspapers have — or plan to adopt — digital paywalls for content.

Monique Jones is an Engineer who deals with telephone systems. Monique graduated as a Cum Laude with a Degree in Civil and Communications Engineering. Besides being an Engineer, she also works as a part time Writer. She helps her colleagues and other people about their communication issues, giving effective solutions to address their needs. On her free time, she works on her fashion business, read books, and chat with friends. She also loves traveling and photography.

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