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The State of the News Media 2004 ^ | 15 March 2004

Posted on 03/15/2004 8:52:05 PM PST by optimistically_conservative

Eight Major Trends For now, the year 2004, the transformation is shaped by eight overarching trends:

A growing number of news outlets are chasing relatively static or even shrinking audiences for news. One result of this is that most sectors of the news media are losing audience. That audience decline, in turn, is putting pressures on revenues and profits, which leads to a cascade of other implications. The only sectors seeing general audience growth today are online, ethnic and alternative media.

Much of the new investment in journalism today - much of the information revolution generally - is in disseminating the news, not in collecting it. Most sectors of the media are cutting back in the newsroom, both in terms of staff and in the time they have to gather and report the news. While there are exceptions, in general journalists face real pressures trying to maintain quality.

In many parts of the news media, we are increasingly getting the raw elements of news as the end product. This is particularly true in the newer, 24-hour media. In cable and online, there is a tendency toward a jumbled, chaotic, partial quality in some reports, without much synthesis or even the ordering of the information. There is also a great deal of effort, particularly on cable news, that is put into delivering essentially the same news repetitively without any meaningful updating.

Journalistic standards now vary even inside a single news organization. Companies are trying to reassemble and deliver to advertisers a mass audience for news not in one place, but across different programs, products and platforms. To do so, some are varying their news agenda, their rules on separating advertising from news and even their ethical standards. What will air on an MSNBC talk show on cable might not meet the standards of NBC News on broadcast, and the way that advertising intermingles with news stories on many newspaper Web sites would never be allowed in print. Even the way a television network treats news on a prime time magazine versus a morning show or evening newscast can vary widely. This makes projecting a consistent sense of identity and brand more difficult. It also may reinforce the public perception evident in various polls that the news media lack professionalism and are motivated by financial and self-aggrandizing motives rather than the public interest.

Without investing in building new audiences, the long-term outlook for many traditional news outlets seems problematic. Many traditional media are maintaining their profitability by focusing on costs, including cutting back in their newsrooms. Our study shows general increases in journalist workload, declines in numbers of reporters, shrinking space in newscasts to make more room for ads and promotions, and in various ways that are measurable, thinning the product. This raises questions about the long term. How long can news organizations keep increasing what they charge advertisers to reach a smaller audience? If they maintain profits by cutting costs, social science research on media suggests they will accelerate their audience loss.

Convergence seems more inevitable and potentially less threatening to journalists than it may have seemed a few years ago. At least for now, online journalism appears to be leading more to convergence with older media rather than replacement of it. When audience trends are examined closely, one cannot escape the sense that the nation is heading toward a situation, especially at the national level, in which institutions that were once in different media, such as CBS and The Washington Post, will be direct competitors on a single primary field of battle - online. The idea that the medium is the message increasingly will be passé. This is an exciting possibility that offers the potential of new audiences, new ways of storytelling, more immediacy and more citizen involvement.

The biggest question may not be technological but economic. While journalistically online appears to represent opportunity for old media rather than simply cannibalization, the bigger issue may be financial. If online proves to be a less useful medium for subscription fees or advertising, will it provide as strong an economic foundation for newsgathering as television and newspapers have? If not, the move to the Web may lead to a general decline in the scope and quality of American journalism, not because the medium isn't suited for news, but because it isn't suited to the kind of profits that underwrite newsgathering.

Those who would manipulate the press and public appear to be gaining leverage over the journalists who cover them. Several factors point in this direction. One is simple supply and demand. As more outlets compete for their information, it becomes a seller's market for information. Another is workload. The content analysis of the 24-hour-news outlets suggests that their stories contain fewer sources. The increased leverage enjoyed by news sources has already encouraged a new kind of checkbook journalism, as seen in the television networks efforts to try to get interviews with Michael Jackson and Jessica Lynch, the soldier whose treatment while in captivity in Iraq was exaggerated in many accounts.

These are some of the conclusions from this new study of the state of American journalism, a study that we believe is unprecedented in its comprehensive scope. The report breaks American journalism into eight sectors - newspapers, magazines, network television, cable television, local television, the Internet, radio, and ethnic and alternative media (which are distinct from each other).

For each of the media sectors, we tried to answer basic questions in six areas: the trends in content, audience, economics, ownership, newsroom investment and public attitudes. We aggregated as much publicly available data as is possible in one place and, for six of the sectors, also conducted an original content analysis. (For local television news, we relied on five years of content analysis the Project had previously conducted. For radio, ethnic and alternative media, no special content analysis was conducted.)

The study is the work of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an institute affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The study is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, whose leadership challenged us to take on this assignment.. The chapters were written, with the exceptions of those on network television, cable, and newspapers, which had co-authors, by the Project's staff.

Our aim is for this to be a research report, not an argument. It is not our intention to try to persuade anyone to a particular point of view. Where the facts are clear, we hope we have not shied from explaining what they reveal, making clear what is proven versus what is only suggested. We hope, however, that we are not seen as simply taking sides in any journalistic debates.

We have tried to be as transparent as possible about sources and methods, and to make it clear when we are laying out data versus when we have moved into analysis of that data.

We believe our approach of looking at a set of questions across various media differs from the conventional way in which American journalism is analyzed, one medium at a time. We have tried to identify cross-media trends and to gather in one place data that are usually scattered across different venues. We hope this will allow us and others to make comparisons and develop insights that otherwise would be difficult to see. Across the six questions we examined we found some distinct patterns.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: media; mediabias
It also may reinforce the public perception evident in various polls that the news media lack professionalism and are motivated by financial and self-aggrandizing motives rather than the public interest.

Ehhhhhhhh, could be.

1 posted on 03/15/2004 8:52:05 PM PST by optimistically_conservative
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To: optimistically_conservative
I have a novel idea. Do away with newspaper reporters and let the news services feed directly to Free Republic. We can report the news and our columnists are better writers anyway. Besides we have our own reporters around the world.
2 posted on 03/15/2004 9:12:20 PM PST by WVNan
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To: WVNan
I think we are already having an impact. The "talking heads" lurk on FR and blogs and "feedback" from coalitions of the willing such as FR is forcing changes in lamestream reporting.
3 posted on 03/15/2004 9:16:28 PM PST by optimistically_conservative (If consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, John F. Kerry’s mind must be freaking enormous. T.B.)
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To: optimistically_conservative
It seems to be a liberal site, Look at their Spin on Foxnews beating CNN

The Battle for the Top

Anyone who has followed the cable news industry over the two last years has surely heard that Fox News has overtaken CNN when it comes to audience. Or has it?

Looking only at Nielsen data, the most widely used source, the picture seems pretty clear. For 16 years, since its inception in 1980 until the launch of Fox News and MSNBC in 1996, CNN had a monopoly over cable news. Since late 1996, Fox News has grown rapidly. MSNBC, despite being carried on more cable systems initially than Fox News, never seemed to gain many viewers. Soon, it was largely a two-network race.

Starting in 2001, CNN began to lose viewers while Fox News slowly but steadily built an audience around shows such as"The O'Reilly Factor."5 The election dispute in Florida represented a boon for the medium, with viewership at all three networks spiking significantly in November 2000 compared with the rest of 2000. Then, in the election aftermath, Fox News held on to more of its new viewers than CNN.

In January of 2002, Fox News for the first time surpassed CNN in total viewers and held its lead. This was due more to big CNN losses, however, than Fox News's fairly steady but modest gains in viewers. (Fox News at the time averaged 1.1 million viewers in prime time versus 921,000 for CNN. MSNBC, a distant third, averaged 358,000 viewers in prime time.)6

A year later, in January 2003, Fox News had maintained its advantage (with 1,014,000 viewers on average, compared with 721,000 for CNN, and 252,000 for MSNBC).7 And immediately after the war in Iraq, it appeared in May that the network was possibly pulling farther ahead, holding onto more of its wartime audience than CNN.

In the months since, however, Fox News's losses have actually accelerated, and its margin over CNN has narrowed slightly. Still, as of December 2003, Fox News has drawn better ratings than CNN in every month since January 2002 - 24 consecutive months as the cable news leader.

In 2003, the median monthly viewership of Fox News was 770,000 daytime viewers and 1.4 million in prime time, 52 and 62 percent more, respectively, than CNN. In December 2003, Fox News averaged 1.4 million viewers in prime time, and 961,000 in daytime, both roughly 60 percent more than CNN. In conventional ratings terms, Fox News is well ahead.

Two elements, however, need to be understood about the Nielsen data. First, Nielsen measures only the viewers in private homes. Thus, there are not reliable data on how many viewers tune in at work, the gym, airports or elsewhere. (About 18 million travelers are exposed to the CNN Airport Network each month, according to CNN).8

Second, Nielsen data measure only how many people are viewing a given program at a given time. This is what matters to advertisers. But the numbers do not tell us whether the people who are watching a given program at one time are different people or the same as are watching another program later on.

In other words, the ratings data do not tell us how many people watch cable news overall. There is no number here that would be analogous to newspaper readership or circulation, or the number of "unique visitors" to a Web site.

This may have worked fine for describing the appeal of broadcast television, where every show was a distinct product. But it misses something in capturing the scope of a medium like cable television, where much of the broadcast day is indistinct from another part.

As a result, CNN executives argue, the ratings numbers significantly undercount CNN's real total viewership and may overstate Fox News' appeal.

CNN executives argue that their internal research suggests that through the course of the day, more different people check in on their network for news updates. Fox News, they contend, has a smaller overall audience, but Fox News's audience is more loyal and watches for longer periods of time, thus giving Fox a slightly bigger audience at any given moment.9

Is this just network PR spin?

Actually, there is some public research to suggest CNN may have something of a point.

The only way now to find out how many people overall are watching a given cable station, or even cable news generally, is through survey research rather than ratings. The survey work by the Pew Research Center has examined this over several years and finds that while Fox News is gaining, CNN actually is cited by more people as the source they turn to for most of their news.

In October 2003, in the latest data available, 17 percent of those surveyed cited Fox News as their primary news source, while 20 percent cited CNN. And in July, closer to the March/April war in Iraq, during which Fox News enjoyed a spike in ratings, CNN's margin over Fox News was even bigger - five points rather than three (27 percent versus 22 percent).10

Thus, Fox News is widely understood in the general press as the cable news leader in viewers, and at any given moment, which is what advertisers care about, that seems true. In another sense, however, Fox News' dominance is less clear. It is possible, but hard to pin down, that more Americans turn to CNN over time. But they are spread out over more of the broadcast day or even week.

Looking at the survey data, MSNBC remains a distant third, as is the case with ratings. Just 6 percent of respondents cited MSNBC as their primary source of news in October (and 9 percent in July).11

4 posted on 03/15/2004 9:19:14 PM PST by qam1 (Tommy Thompson is a Fat-tubby, Fascist)
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To: qam1
When will these people ever learn? How ironic. In an article about why people watch Fox, the reporter shows their bias. When these people face up to the fact, that people watch Fox because they don't shrill/lie/spin for dimocrats....then they will know why their viewership is up and will continue to go up.

Found it interesting that they don't mention that the clinton news network is in more homes/hotels than Fox. If comparisons were done on those facts, Fox would win even bigger. Just think how much their numbers would increase if they were in as many homes as cnn. Does this make sense? It's late and I'm rambling. LOL
5 posted on 03/16/2004 12:45:48 AM PST by bornintexas (..Release your military records, John F'n Kerry!)
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To: optimistically_conservative
RICHARD M. COHAN, Senior Producer of CBS political news said: "We are going to impose OUR AGENDA on the coverage by dealing with the issues and subjects WE choose to deal with."

RICHARD SALANT, former President of CBS News stated: "Our job is to give people not what they want, but what WE decide they ought to have."
6 posted on 03/16/2004 1:05:42 AM PST by philetus (Keep doing what you always do and you'll keep getting what you always get)
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To: qam1
Well, they do the same thing in comparing NBC/CBS/ABC.

The more of it I get to read, it seems like good analysis.
7 posted on 03/16/2004 6:35:32 AM PST by optimistically_conservative (If consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, John F. Kerry’s mind must be freaking enormous. T.B.)
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To: philetus
Where are those quotes? I'd like to be able to re-use those with sources.
8 posted on 03/16/2004 6:36:19 AM PST by optimistically_conservative (If consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, John F. Kerry’s mind must be freaking enormous. T.B.)
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To: optimistically_conservative
You'll find them here
9 posted on 03/16/2004 7:16:16 AM PST by philetus (Keep doing what you always do and you'll keep getting what you always get)
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