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Report Sees Bleak Trend in U.S. News Media
Published on Monday, March 15, 2004 by Reuters
Report Sees Bleak Trend in U.S. News Media
by Sheri Linden

WASHINGTON - Most U.S. news media are experiencing a steady decline in their audiences and are significantly cutting their investment in staff and resources, according to a report issued on Monday.

The study on the state of the U.S. news media by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which is affiliated with Columbia University's graduate journalism school, found only ethnic, alternative and online media were flourishing.

"Trust in journalism has been declining for a generation," said project director Tom Rosenstiel. "This study suggests one reason is that news media are locked in a vicious cycle. As audiences fragment, newsrooms are cut back, which further erodes public trust."

Circulation of English-language daily newspapers has dropped 11 percent since 1990; network news ratings are down 34 percent since 1994; late night local TV news viewership fell 16 percent lower since 1997 and cable news viewership has been flat since late 2001.

On the positive side, Spanish-language newspaper circulation nearly quadrupled over the past 13 years and advertising revenues were up sevenfold.

The report cataloged a striking decline in the number of journalists employed in American newsrooms. There were one third fewer network correspondents than in 1985; 2,200 fewer people at newspapers than in 1990; and the number of full-time radio newsroom employees fell by 44 percent from 1994 to 2001.

Only 5 percent of stories on cable news contained new information, the report found. Most were simply rehashes of the same facts. There was also less fact checking than in the past and less policing of journalistic standards.

Quality news and information were more available than ever before, but so was the trivial, the one-sided and the false.

Consumers with the time and patience to distinguish between many different sources of news might be better informed, but many were likely to find news outlets that echoed their own view of the world without providing alternative viewpoints.

Technology was driving many of the changes.

"Journalism is in the midst of an epochal transformation, as momentous probably as the invention of the telegraph or television," the report said.

2004 Reuters Ltd


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