News companies in 2012 continued to see reporting resources shrink and their mission evolve as politicians, government agencies, companies and other newsmakers used social media to take their messages directly to the public. That's according to the newly released State of the Media report by the Pew Research Center.
The bottom line, according to Pew: "The news industry is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands."
But Pew also notes that new players are emerging to produce content about public interest issues, including education and science. One example: The Kaiser Family Foundation, which produces Kaiser Health News.
Among other highlights and key findings of the report:
– Newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry's ranks down 30 percent since a peak in 2000 – below 40,000 full-time jobs for the first time since 1978.
– On local TV stations, sports, weather and traffic now make up about 40 percent of the content produced on the newscasts studied – and story lengths are shrinking.
– On CNN, the cable channel that has branded itself around in-depth reporting, story packages were cut nearly in half from 2007 to 2012.
– Time magazine, the only major print U.S. news weekly left after Newsweek printed its last issue, cut about 5 percent of its staff in early 2013.
– Political reporters covering campaigns are acting mostly as megaphones for politicians – not investigators who probe, interpret and offer context about candidates.
– The news industry continues to lose out on most of the new digital advertising. But the long-dormant sponsorship ad category is seeing sharp growth.
– People who hear about news from friends and family, whether via social media or actual word of mouth, are leading to deeper news consumption.
Pew focuses on a number of areas in its 10th annual report: changes in television news; the lessons of the 2012 election; how people get news from friends and family—and what they do next; and the financial struggles facing the industry.
Slate's take on the report: "Ignore the doomsayers: The news-reading public has never had more and better information at their fingertips."
Huffington Post's angle: Journalism cutbacks are driving consumers away.
Media Bistro leads with the report's finding that cable news viewership may be hitting a ceiling.
And Adweek follows the money: Digital news consumption is up, but revenue is dwindling.