January 14 – January 21, 2010 Edition

Newspapers Still a Vital Source of Local News, Study Finds

SAN FRANCISCO/AUTHORLINK NEWS/01/13/10–The majority of local news still originates from newspapers and their web sites, despite the growth of the Internet, according to a study by Pew Research center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, as reported on the blog, Taragana.

The Pew study followed six major news stories during a one-week period in July 2009, monitoring 53 media outlets, including newspapers, television and radio stations and web-only entities, and found that 61 percent of original reporting or fresh information came from newspapers and their web sites. Twenty-eight 28 percent of the new information was generated from local television stations and their websites. Radio stations accounted for seven percent of the original news flow and Internet-only "new media" represented just 4 percent.

Part of the problem newspapers face is that that the industry has been losing hundreds of millions in revenue annually to Google, blogs and other Web sites that steal from their stories to help attract more readers and sell more advertising. Among industry leaders speaking out about the problem are News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, whose company owns The Wall Street Journal, and Tom Curley, chief executive of The Associated Press, a not-for-profit cooperative owned by newspapers.

"This study does suggest that if newspapers were to disappear, what would be left to aggregate?" said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Overall, more than 80 percent of the coverage published and broadcast during the study period contained old information wrapped in a different package. "Much of the ‘news’ people receive contains no original reporting," the study found.

More commonly than in the past, the study found, press releases from politicians, government agencies and companies were rewritten quickly by multiple outlets and posted on the Web with no additional reporting.

Print ad sales, the main source of newspaper income, have plunged by more than 40 percent – siphoning more than $20 billion in annual revenue – since 2005.

Those financial pressures triggered layoffs that have collectively reduced the size of U.S. newspaper staffs by about 25 percent since 2001, based on estimates from the American Society of News Editors. That translates into the loss of at least 14,000 newspaper reporters, editors and photographers in eight years. The final count on 2009 job losses hasn’t been completed.

The conclusions bolster the arguments of newspaper publishers and editors who trumpet their publications as indispensable sources of information about their communities.