For people who live in the “Age of Information” we seem to have a real issue with getting that information into our hands. Oh sure, there’s plenty of rumor, unsubstantiated “facts” and plain old made up lies out there, but the importance of the press in this county – the commercial press, the professional press – is so tantamount that the Founders dealt with it in the very first amendment.
That’s why I find the new Pew State Of The Media report so disturbing. You see, even though there are more sources for news and information than ever before, the really professional sources – the ones supposedly held to a higher journalistic standard – are hurting:
Faced with shrinking revenue and dwindling audiences, news organizations in recent years have slashed staffs and reduced coverage. Most news consumers are little aware of the financial struggles that led to these cuts, a new Pew Research Center survey finds. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of them not only have noticed a difference in the quantity or quality of news, but have stopped reading, watching or listening to a news source because of it.
Nearly one-third—31%—of people say they have deserted a particular news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to, according to the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults in early 2013. And those most likely to have walked away are better educated, wealthier and older than those who did not—in other words, they are people who tend to be most prone to consume and pay for news.
In other words, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. Fewer people are reading and so revenues are dwindling. Less revenue means staffs are cut so fewer people read. What’s disturbing is that during the presidential campaign, Pew found that reporters acted as megaphones instead of investigators. More stories are simply reporting verbatim what candidates or partisans were saying, rather than using those statements as a starting-off point to explore an issue.
This isn’t a recent phenomenon. Read Paul Krugman‘s column in yesterday’s Times about how the press went in the tank during the run up to the Iraq War. What’s different now is that there doesn’t seem to be a way out. The business model that’s in place isn’t working and there is huge resistance to paying for a lower quality product. In other words, as Pew said, the job of news organizations is to come to terms with the fact that, as they search for economic stability, their financial future may well hinge on their ability to provide high quality reporting.
Thoughts? And what does this research say about your business and maintaining high-quality?