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