Local TV News Headed down Newspaper's Path?

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A new Pew Study will be released Today and it shows that the Internet is just about as important as Local TV News is to consumers. It also shows that viewers don't think local news is headed in the right direction. 

The NY Times writes that the report, covering 2012, describes cutbacks in the reporting ranks of newspapers and television networks and a surge in efforts by politicians, corporations and others to tell their own stories.

“This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands,” the report’s main author, Amy Mitchell, wrote in an introduction.

The report also highlighted the results of a new Pew survey that asked Americans whether they had heard much about the financial challenges that the news industry faces, like the steep decline in newspaper advertising revenue.

Sixty percent of the respondents said they had heard little or nothing, indicating that “awareness of the industry’s financial struggles is limited,” the report said. But some have sensed the results: 31 percent of respondents said they “have stopped turning to a news outlet because it no longer provided them with the news they were accustomed to getting.”

The report’s authors did find, as in prior years, a robust public appetite for news. Digital news sources are now used daily by 50 percent of Americans, according to Pew’s survey, making the Internet nearly as important a source as television. Mobile phones and tablets were mostly responsible for the surge in digital news consumption.

Computers and mobile phones, of course, redistribute news from television, radio and newspapers. But cutbacks at many of these traditional sources continued in 2012, Pew found.

The report’s authors cited an estimate from Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at The Poynter Institute, of newspaper newsroom employment that dipped below 40,000 last year, to the industry’s lowest level since 1978. They decided to dig deep into television news coverage, partly because it has escaped the scrutiny focused on newspapers in recent years. They found that local television stations have increased their reliance on three main topics — weather, traffic and sports.

The researchers sampled the newscasts in four markets (Bend, Ore.; Houston; Milwaukee; and Pittsburgh) and compared their findings with a similar study of three of the markets in 2005. Back then, there were more taped stories and interviews; now there are more live reports from reporters in the field. The report called this a sign that “there is less in-depth journalism being produced.”

Only 20 percent of the stories in the 2012 sample were more than a minute long. Segments about weather, traffic and sports ate up 40 percent of local newscasts’ time, up from 32 percent in 2005, even though this kind of information “is now available on demand in a variety of digital platforms,” the report said.

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