Key Findings of the 2008 The Changing Newsroom study:
- The majority of newspapers are now suffering cutbacks in staffing, and even more in the amount of news, or newshole, they offer the public. The forces buffeting the industry continue to affect larger metro newspapers to a far greater extent than smaller ones. In some cases, these differences are so stark it seems that larger and smaller newspapers are living two distinctly different experiences. Fully 85% of the dailies surveyed with circulations over 100,000 have cut newsroom staff in the last three years, while only 52% of smaller papers reported cuts. Recent announcements of a further round of newsroom staff reductions at large papers, including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post, indicates these differences may be widening further. Our survey found that more than half of the editors at larger papers and a third at smaller ones expect more cutbacks in the next year. But a weaker-than-expected economic performance during the first half of 2008 and grimmer forecasts for the rest of the year suggest some of those cutbacks have already been implemented and darken these projections even further.
- Papers both large and small have reduced the space, resources and commitment devoted to a range of topics. At the top of that list, nearly two thirds of papers surveyed have cut back on foreign news, over half have trimmed national news and more than a third have reduced business coverage. In effect, America’s newspapers are narrowing their reach and their ambitions and becoming niche reads.
- The culture of the daily newspaper newsroom is also changing. New job demands are drawing a generation of young, versatile, tech-savvy, high-energy staff as financial pressures drive out higher-salaried veteran reporters and editors. Newsroom executives say the infusion of new blood has brought with it a new competitive energy, but they also cite the departure of veteran journalists, along with the talent, wisdom and institutional memory they hold as their single greatest loss. Clearly stretched to describe what is unfolding in their newsrooms, editors use words like, “exciting,” “extraordinary,” “nerve-wracking” and “tumultuous.”
- Newspaper websites are increasingly a source of hope but also of fear. Editors feel torn between the advantages the web offers and the energy it consumes to produce material often of limited or even questionable value. A plurality of editors (48%), for instance, say they are conflicted by the trade-offs between the speed, depth and interactivity of the web and what those benefits are costing in terms of accuracy and journalistic standards. Yet a similar plurality (43%) thinks “web technology offers the potential for greater-than-ever journalism and will be the savior of what we once thought of as newspaper newsrooms.”