Report: bad news for local news reporting. Years of decline shows no sign of abating

Report: bad news for local news reporting. Years of decline shows no sign of abating

A steady, years-long decline in local-news reporting, as newspapers — the largest source of local news — have gradually cut back their reporting staffs.

A second upshot: The biggest investments in digital news have gone toward start-up ventures that target broad and borderless audiences, bypassing community news altogether.

The gradual erosion of local news can be glimpsed in a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Project on Journalism. The Washington-based organization says in its annual“State of the Media” report that digital news continues to grow, but that the strongest gains have been among sites with a national focus, not those covering city hall or the local high school team.

The report found that just 30 national and international news sites — Vice, Huffington Post, Politico, Buzzfeed, Mashable, among others — accounted for about 60 percent of all the new digital journalism jobs created over the past five or so years.

This new burst of hiring, however, didn’t come close to replacing the jobs lost at “legacy” local news organizations, such as newspapers and radio and TV stations. Newspapers alone have cut some 14,000 newsroom positions over the past six years, or nearly 30 percent of their total employment, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2012, the most recent year of ASNE’s newsroom census, total newsroom employment nationwide was 38,000, the lowest since the organization began counting in 1978.

“Local news and information is a key area of interest to the American public, but how that news is supported remains a question,” said Amy Mitchell, Pew’s director of journalism research, in an interview. “It’s a question many news organizations are struggling with.”

The slow deterioration of local-news reporting has been a source of alarm in some quarters for years, especially the retreat from state- and local-government accountability reporting. In 2009, a blue-ribbon panel backed by the nonprofit Knight Foundation warned of a “crisis” among “local journalistic institutions that have traditionally served democracy.” In a 2011 report, the Federal Communications Commission concluded, “The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism . . . is in some cases at risk at the local level.”

If there’s any good news about local news it’s that hundreds of former “legacy” journalists have jumped into the breach left by the decline of their traditional news outlets to start local and “hyperlocal” news sites around the country.

Source: Washington Post