Newspaper Quality Suffering with Job Cuts

July 23, 2008 06:00 AM
by Liz Colville
A new study suggests that job cuts at American daily newspapers are affecting the quality of the papers’ content—the latest hardship for the struggling industry.

30-Second Summary

The study, published by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), indicates that newspapers are downsizing, becoming younger and more tech-savvy, and are sharpening their focus on local issues. As a consequence, many are becoming “niche reads.”

The reason for these shifts is attributed to advertisers, which are “follow[ing] readers online.” Nevertheless, newspaper Web sites “capture only a small fraction of the revenue lost as they sell fewer print ads, which fetch more money,” according to the Associated Press.

As a result of job cuts, many reporters are now assigned to several different beats, resulting in fewer stories written by reporters considered authorities on a topic. The PEJ study also found that some papers have eliminated features entirely or relegated them to a smaller space on the page.

The study follows a report commissioned by the Associated Press that suggested that young news readers are suffering from “news fatigue,” attributed to a dearth of deep news coverage and an abundance of repetitive headlines.

The PEJ study also notes that editors “feel torn between the advantages the Web offers and the energy it consumes to produce material often of limited or even questionable value.”

Henry Weinstein of the Los Angeles Times commented in 2006 that newspapers must continue to provide in-depth and foreign coverage in order to “bear witness” to important events, but job cuts and a focus on local news are preventing this. One reader recently protested job cuts at his local paper by suing the paper.

Headline Link: ‘Study: Shrinking newsrooms hurt quality’

Background: The Web’s impact on newspapers

Opinions & Analysis: Print journalism a fading tradition

Reference: The PEJ study


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