The changing state of the news media

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has released their 2005 “State of the News Media” report. Here are some highlights:

Five Major Trends:

  1. There are now several models of journalism, and the trajectory increasingly is toward those that are faster, looser, and cheaper.
  2. The rise in partisanship of news consumption and the notion that people have retreated to their ideological corners for news has been widely exaggerated.
  3. To adapt, journalism may have to move in the direction of making its work more transparent and more expert, and of widening the scope of its searchlight.
  4. Despite the new demands, there is more evidence than ever that the mainstream media are investing only cautiously in building new audiences.
  5. The three broadcast network news divisions face their most important moment of transition in decades.

Local TV:

One new area of concern for local TV news, however, is evidence that the public is worried about the medium’s believability, with fewer people giving it high ratings for being trustworthy and more people rating it poorly.

The decade-long decline in viewership of evening and late news appears to be stabilizing, at least for the time being. In addition, the loss of local TV news viewers during traditional time periods has been accompanied by increasing news audiences in other time slots, particularly mornings. As one researcher describes the local TV news audience, “It’s just not when it used to be, and it’s not when TV stations want it.“1

Local managers may be coming to grips with the evolution of local TV news from a mass-market product to a niche product. The addition of more news programming with more targeted content seen in new late-afternoon and early-morning newscasts is an example of how stations have reacted to the trend.

While the Project continues to downplay the importance of blogs in terms of gathering an online news audience (remember: bigger is better in a top-down world), the study does show dramatic growth in both the creation and readership of blogs during 2004.

This is an enormous study and it’s going to take some time to fully absorb its findings. That said, I’ll probably have more to say later. From what I’ve seen so far, I think it captures the state of the news media accurately, and I look forward to reading the whole thing.

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