Media today – more outlets – fewer reporters

  • In a somewhat chilling read from Tuesday’s Media Notes column from the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz comments on the loss of journalists likely out of the sale of Knight-Ridder this week. He also notes the reduction in force of 80 journalism positions (about 10%) from the Washington Post itself. While the Post says the staff cuts will be from attrition, buyouts and retirement, this is following on the heels of an earlier reduction in force at the WP.

    BTW – the Post is ALSO planning to increase the workload of some of its news staff as they work to be a part of a new AM service on the old WTOP AM (“NPR on caffeine,” so they say).

    On Monday, another follows by a day a column by Mr. Kurtz on the overall decline of journalism jobs in many key outlets nationwide.

    That column from March 13 is most chilling to me. While cable TV, news websites, blogs and more are filling up with opinion and “live” coverage, the actual work of covering issues, industries and trends over time looks to be getting strained ever further.

    In public radio, stations and networks are trying to expand coverage and journalism work, but we have a long way to go. When you ponder the reductions at the Washington post, one must remember that the WP still has about as many news reporters as National Public Radio has employees. Yet, if you add in all of the reporters in public radio as a whole and the industry may actually have as many journalists working nation and world-wide to match or exceed the Post.

    But our efforts are not well coordinated, our coverage often relies on our print colleagues for many of our leads. While media outlets cross-pollinate all the time, journalism relies on having sources, building relationships and finding out the true story beyond public pronouncements, press releases and self-interested spin. This takes time – and people.

    The dual challenge is to have journalists being productive and efficient in producing content for multiple uses and platforms, but ALSO allowing for time to learn and discover. Discovery doesn’t do very well from an anchor desk or a pundit’s chair. Discovery does even less well on chat shows where journalists/talent must be creating content non-stop. The best chat shows have many people working behind the scenes gathering the best guests, getting the best information and keeping people on their toes.

    This isn’t to say that public radio isn’t doing outstanding journalism and breaking stories. Nina Totenberg filed a remarkable story on a recent speech by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that is only now gaining traction in the rest of the media world.

    The role of the Fourth estate is being challenged. In a world where a person can readily find opinons that reinforce personal beliefs and preferences, how will we allow for discovery and the vetting of information to test its veracity? Blogs can sometime do a good job of truth-squadding, but breaking through the noise is getting more and more difficult.

    It would seem that mass media still has a place…but will it be able to fill it?

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    About sehanley

    Musician, journalist, teacher, technologist, consultant & former NPR station manager. A media and entertainment professional, journalist, entrepreneur, technology advocate, educator, student, mentor, manager, and media, musical and theatrical performer. Voice talent and coach for music and spoken word. I also act and sing (mostly jazz, but a lot of experience with choral, classical and musical theater, too). Brass instruments, too, but my AF ofM card lapsed years ago. Heard on the national jazz service, PubJazz, and in the Pittsburgh market on WZUM/Pittsburgh Jazz Channel. I also teach college level courses in media and journalism. I managed the leading NPR/public radio station in Pittsburgh, PA for 16 years, a few years later was GM of the NPR station WBHM in Birmingham, AL. I served for six very busy years on the NPR Board of Directors and have done much volunteer service for national and local organizations in the communities I have been privileged to live and work in. Former NPR Board Member, former President of the Pittsburgh Radio Organization, sometime musician, relentless technology advocate. Opinions expressed are not the viewpoints of any employer or affiliation past or present.
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    3 Responses to Media today – more outlets – fewer reporters

    1. Tim Eby says:

      This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Tim Eby says:


      As a follow-up to this, read Terry Heaton’s take on The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s latest “State of the News Media” report.


    3. Pingback: WDUQ’s Leadership Concerned About the Future of Journalism | Pittsburgh Public Media

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