State of the News Media 2006

The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s 2006 State of the News Media report doesn’t hold back. Here’s the opening line: “Scan the headlines of 2005 and one question seems inevitable: Will we recall this as the year when journalism in print began to die?”

The report lays out six big trends, and spends a lot of time focusing on the dying talent of “original reporting.” “The worry is not the wondrous addition of citizen media, but the decline of full-time, professional monitoring of powerful institutions,” the report says.

Another big problem the report cites is the herd mentality of the outlets, where everyone clumps together at the same big stories: “Everyone’s got fewer resources, and yet everyone feels compelled to cover the same basic stories,” Tom Rosenstiel, the project’s director told Howard Kurtz–“whether it’s a White House event, plane crash or high-profile murder. ‘It’s a way of branding the event. They want Katie Couric or Wolf Blitzer or News4 Milwaukee there.'”

Then the report also takes a look at each industry in particular, from magazines to newspapers to the online world, as well as television:

On cable TV: “Fox News, by our reckoning, is growing on nearly all fronts. CNN’s situation is more complicated, though not as bleak as some might think. MSNBC remains on shaky ground…. For the third straight year, our content analysis of cable suggests that it is thinly reported, suffers from a focus on the immediate, especially during the day, is prone to opinion mongering and is easily controlled by sources who want to filibuster. All of these raise questions about whether cable news will suffer if audiences begin to feel more comfortable with video and text on news websites as a substitute for getting instant news on television.”

On network news: “The underlying problems of network news continue without apparent interruption. The evening news lost more viewers in 2005. The audience for news continues to skew old, and advertisers remain preoccupied with the young. Yet somewhere between anticipating the change in generations and its arrival, something new happened. The end of an era had already begun to feel like the start of the new one.”