Tuesday, April 2, 2013

This just in!

by Francesca Lyman
Well, don’t stop the presses: Annual Pew media survey reports woes for traditional media, a continuing rise in digital journalism; and a report on Entertainment news squeezing out Environmental coverage

What’s black and white, and read all over? Not newspapers, as the old children’s riddle once told us, nor traditional news media, according to the Pew Research Center’s annual report, State of the News Media,” out March 18th.

Analyzing the media industry’s economics, audience and viewership, and prospects by sector, the report details continuing rifts in the news media landscape, cuts particularly affecting newspapers, and an ongoing rise in digital media.
This may not be news to readers of Solaripedia, but most news consumers are unaware of these profound changes. Surprisingly, some 60 percent of Americans say they’re unaware of these trends, while 31 percent have stopped turning to news outlets they used to depend on.

Since last year, the newspaper industry has lost the most ground to rivals in the technology industry. The Center’s estimates for newsroom cutbacks in 2012 “put industry employment down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 employees for the first time since 1978.” On cable TV, coverage of live events during the day, “which often requires a crew and correspondent, fell 30% from 2007 to 2012,” with interview segments up 31%.

In 2011, the center found, losses in print advertising dollars “outpaced gains in digital revenue by a factor of roughly 10 to 1, a ratio even worse than in 2010.” Their conclusion, when circulation and advertising revenue are combined, is that “the newspaper industry has shrunk 43% since 2000.” The result is a news industry understaffed and less prepared than ever to uncover stories or dig deep into emerging trends.

Nevertheless they found that news is becoming a more important and pervasive part of people’s daily lives. “That, in the end,” they wrote, “could prove a saving factor for the future of journalism.”

The brightest spot perhaps is that online news consumption rose sharply during the last two years, as digital platforms have spread. Online news was the only category of news that grew in the Pew Research Center’s 2012 News Media Consumption Survey.

Another journalism report earlier this year found particularly profound changes in news coverage  when it comes to environmental issues (science, health, climate and environmental policy).

Environmental Coverage in the Mainstream News: We Need More,” published in January 2013 by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage (PIEC), a nonprofit organization, found that “on average, entertainment headlines get over three times more coverage than environmental stories for nationally prominent news organizations.”

The study found that environmental stories represent just 1% of news headlines in the US and that entertainment stories garner nearly three times more headlines. It also found that “for some news organizations, entertainment and crime garner twenty times and sixty times more coverage than the environment.
The project conducted a national poll in 2012 by the Opinion Research Corporation over the weekend of April 14–15, and found “seventy-nine percent of Americans believe news coverage of the environment should be improved.” Read More:http://greeningthemedia.org/wp-content/uploads/Environmental-Coverage-in-the-Mainstream-News.pdf

As the Columbia Journalism Review noted in examining the report, “Local newspapers were the only media group that paid more attention, on average, to the environment than to entertainment.”

How important is being informed, particularly on issues like the environment? Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

* Francesca Lyman is a Seattle-based freelance journalist and member of the Society of Environmental Journalists. She is the author of  The Greenhouse Trap (A World Resources Institute Guide to the Environment) and Managing Editor of Solaripedia.com.