The News About the Internet

"The State of the News Media, 2009: An Annual Report on American Journalism"

by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism

Ross Douthat at The New York Times: nytimes.com

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Talking Points Memo, the blog started in 2000 by Josh Marshall, July 14, 2009

Of all the dismal and discouraging numbers to have emerged from the world of newspapers—the sharp plunges in circulation, the dizzying fall-off in revenues, the burgeoning debt, the mounting losses—none seems as sobering as the relentless march of layoffs and buyouts. According to the blog Paper Cuts, newspapers lost 15,974 jobs in 2008 and another 10,000 in the first half of 2009. That’s 26,000 fewer reporters, editors, photographers, and columnists to cover the world, analyze political and economic affairs, root out corruption and abuse, and write about culture, entertainment, and sports.

The membership of the Military Reporters and Editors Association has fallen from six hundred in 2001 to under one hundred today. In April, Cox Newspapers closed its Washington office, contributing to the dramatic decline in the number of reporters covering the federal government. The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Newsday have all closed their foreign bureaus. Because of repeated retrenchments, the McClatchy newspapers, which include The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, and more than two dozen other dailies across the US, cannot afford to open a South Asia bureau that’s been in the works for three years, or to keep a full-time correspondent in Mexico or even Baghdad, where its bureau has done such standout work. In “the good old days,” McClatchy editor Mark Seibel recently wrote, the organization could lay off reporters “and insist with a straight face that there would be no change in our ability to cover the news. No more. The last year of layoffs, cutbacks and consolidations have hurt. Bad.”

In an online chat with readers earlier this year, New York Times executive editor Bill Keller deplored the “diminishing supply of quality journalism” at a time of “growing demand.” By quality journalism, he said, he meant the kind “that involves experienced reporters going places, bearing witness, digging into records, developing sources, checking and double-checking, backed by editors who try to enforce high standards.” The supply of such journalism, he added,

is declining because it is hard, expensive, sometimes dangerous work. The traditional practitioners of this craft—mainly newspapers—have been downsizing or declaring bankruptcy. The wonderful florescence of communication ignited by the Internet contains countless voices riffing on the journalism of others but not so many that do serious reporting of their own.

Keller’s lament—one of a steady chorus rising from the industry—contains a feature common to many of them: a put-down of the Web and the bloggers who regularly comment on Web sites. David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter and the creator of The Wire, offered a particularly barbed version during recent testimony in the Senate on the future of journalism. While the Internet is “a marvelous tool,” he declared, it

leeches…reporting from mainstream news publications, whereupon aggregating websites and bloggers contribute little…


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