Newspaper Newsroom Staff Are At Lowest Point Since 1978

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 18 2013 4:22 PM

Newspaper Newsroom Staff Numbers Are at Lowest Point Since 1978

Screen shot 2013-03-18 at 3.48.07 P

Pew "State Of The Media" report.

Want to get depressed about the current state of journalism? Be sure to check out Pew's annual "State of the News Media" report, released Monday, that points out for the first time since 1978 fewer than 40,000 people are working staff jobs in newspaper newsrooms.* That's a 30 percent drop since 2000.

But the report is less interesting for its grim take on the journalism industry's staffing numbers than it is for what seems to be an early look at how those staffing cuts are affecting the content of news programs. The image up top shows a graph from Pew illustrating the percentage of reported stories on national cable news channels. 

Advertisement

As you can see, CNN's evening airtime for reported packages dropped nearly in half since 2007, according to Pew. In a separate analysis, researchers noted that CNN is the only cable news channel devoting more time to reporting (54 percent) than to opinion (46 percent). Overall, 63 percent of cable news airtime is devoted to opinion and commentary. And on local news, 40 percent of airtime is devoted to sports, traffic, or weather, up from 32 percent in 2005.

Pew's overview of their findings points to a few other worrying details:

A growing list of media outlets, such as Forbes magazine, use technology by a company called Narrative Science to produce content by way of algorithm, no human reporting necessary. And some of the newer nonprofit entrants into the industry, such as the Chicago News Cooperative, have, after launching with much fanfare, shut their doors. 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.

This plays out most obviously in political reporting, as they note in an analysis of political coverage:

A Pew Research Center analysis revealed that campaign reporters were acting primarily as megaphones, rather than as investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans.  That meant more direct relaying of assertions made by the campaigns and less reporting by journalists to interpret and contextualize them.

Unsurprisingly, 31 percent of adults have abandoned a news outlet because they're no longer getting the quality of information from that source that they previously received.

Correction, March 18: This article originally stated that for the first time since 1978 fewer than 40,000 people are working staff jobs in newsrooms. It should have specified the number referred exclusively to newspaper newsrooms.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.