“When we imagine the news ecosystem in the 21st century, the newspaper is still the largest originating, gathering source.”
That’s the opinion of Tom Rosenstiel, Director of Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. He made these comments in an opening statement before the Joint Economic Committee hearing on “The Future of Newspapers: The Impact on the Economy and Democracy” last September.
Rosenstiel noted that newspapers have more “boots on the ground, more reporters and editors than anyone else, usually than all others combined. A good deal of what is carried on radio, television, cable and wire services comes from newspaper newsrooms. These media then disseminate it to broader audiences.”
He says that the crisis of newspapers does not stem from loss of audience. “Weekday print circulation last year fell by 4.6%, but the number of unique visitors to newspaper websites grew by 15.8% to 65 million. When you combine print and online audiences of newspapers, the industry overall is faring better than other legacy media-and many newspapers are seeing their audience grow.
“One study, by Scarborough, suggests audience gains of 8.4% from online readership. What’s more, the Internet offers the potential of a more compelling, more dynamic, more interactive journalism—a better journalism than print—coming from these newsrooms.”
Rosenstiel says (not surprisingly) that the crisis facing newspapers is a revenue problem. Reduced print ad revenue and lowered prices for online ads mean fewer reporters. “The consequence is that the amount of our civic life that occurs in the sunlight of observation by journalists is shrinking.”
And here’s when Rosenstiel becomes eloquent. “So should we care whether newspapers survive? Perhaps not. Typewriters have come and gone. But I believe we do have a stake as citizens in having reporters who are independent, who work full time, and who go out and gather news, not just talk about it, and who try to get the facts and the context right.
“And it’s not just the high-flying investigative reporters I have in mind, but perhaps even more so the reporters who simply show up week after week, sit in the front row, and bear witness, and who, simply by their presence, say to those in power on behalf of all the rest of us, you are being watched.”
You can read the entire article here: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1357/newspaper-remain-main-watchdogs-and-source-of-news.
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