News coverage getting shallower?: 10 findings from Pew Research

jkidd@beaufortgazette.comJune 24, 2013 

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently issued its “State of the Media 2013” report.

Here are the 10 most attention-grabbing findings:

• Newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30 percent since 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978.

• Sports, weather and traffic now account for about 40 percent of the content on local TV newscasts, as story length continues to shrink.

• The picture for national broadcasts — excuse the bad pun — is not much brighter. “On CNN, the cable channel that has branded itself around deep reporting, produced story packages were cut nearly in half from 2007 to 2012,” Pew reports.

I wrote last summer about attempts by some outlets to use algorithms to compose news stories. Forbes magazine joins a growing list of such outlets using technology by a company called Narrative Science to produce content with no human reporting necessary.

• Readers notice the decline in the quantity of news provided. Nearly one-third of the respondents say they have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the information to which they were accustomed.

• Pew called the 2012 presidential election the year’s top story, and its analysis suggests that campaign reporters acted primarily as megaphones, rather than as investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans. Their reporting also was highly negative. You can read more about this in the video below.

• I also wrote recently of the rise of content marketing and direct marketing by those who once relied upon news media to take their messages to the public. Whether this is cause or effect of a news industry in flux, Pew notes the number of journalists has shrunk, while the number of publicists has grown. And in a trend mirroring Forbes’ use of algorithm reporting, many large outlets are now using content provided by Kaiser Health News and, part of an overall trend in which distinctions between high-quality information of public value and agenda-driven content marketing are more difficult to discern. • The news industry continues to lose out on the bulk of new digital advertising, but the long-dormant sponsorship-ad category is growing sharply.

• After years of an almost theological debate about whether digital content should be free, the newspaper industry might have reached a conclusion in 2012. Indeed, 450 of the nation’s 1,380 dailies — The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette among them — have started or announced plans for some kind of paid content subscription or pay wall plan, in many cases opting for the metered model that allows a certain number of free visits before requiring users to pay.

• If all of this makes you feel a bit gloomy, cheer up. Although a growing number of people get turned on to news stories through social media, and although those social media don’t always operate with a journalist’s ethic -- or ethics -- most Americans still seek out a full news story after hearing about an event or issue from friends and family. Social networking is now a part of this process, as 15 percent of U.S. adults get most of their news from friends and family this way, but 77 percent of them follow links to full news stories when provided.

Follow managing editor Jeff Kidd on Twitter at

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service