Why newspapers don’t innovate

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Newspapers have come under a lot of criticism for not being innovative enough in transitioning from dead-tree to digital and social media. A new survey of editors by the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) group may help explain why newsrooms find it challenging. Asked what stood in the way of change, 67.7 per cent of respondents said they didn’t have the staff and 57.5 per cent said they didn’t have money (multiple answers allowed). Which is not to say their newsrooms haven’t changed at all in the past 16 months: 

  • 64.9 per cent laid off staff
  • 80.5 per cent eliminated open positions
  • 30.1 per cent reduced people’s hours
  • 43.1 per cent put staff on furloughs
  • 29.5 per cent cut wages
  • 40.7 per cent eliminated sections
  • 52.5 per cent merged sections
  • 7.1 per cent stopped publishing some days of the week.

Almost three-quarters of the editors surveyed said their ability to fulfill their basic function of informing readers was diminished. The detailed survey results make for sad reading.

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The future of news: Two perspectives

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Here’s something to ponder: Two new investigations into the future of news that couldn’t be more different.  
1. Moving Into Multiple Business Models: Outlook for Newspaper Publishing in the Digital Age. This report authored by PriceWaterhouseCoopers asserts that newspapers must keep on reducing costs, increase outsourcing of “generic editorial” functions, further centralize newsrooms and ad salesforces and continue consolidating ownership while putting more emphasis on multi-platform publishing and marketing to niche audiences.

2. Saving the News: Toward a National Journalism Strategy. This report published by the media reform organization Freepress urges the U.S. government to recognize that preserving public-interest journalism is a pressing public policy issue that requires its intervention. It wants the government to introduce incentives that would encourage debt-laden media companies to divest themselves of news business assets while fostering the creation of non-profit, low-profit, community-owned and employee-owned news organizations. It also calls on the U.S. government to create a strong publicly funded news system similar to the Britain’s BBC or Canada’s CBC.

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Google introduces News Timeline

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The ceaselessly clever innovators at Google Labs have launched a new application that could prove useful to anyone using current or recent news reports in their research. News Timeline marries the topic/phrase searchability of Google News with a graphical timeline presentation of search results. It’s worth checking out. (Try “swine flu” or “pandemic” as search terms for starters.)
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Online journalists most jailed last year

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For the first time ever, the number of online journalists jailed last year exceeded than those working in print, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports. Of 125 journalists in jail worldwide as of Dec. 1, 2008, 55 worked online, 53 worked in print and 17 worked in broadcast media or film. China continues to be the world leader in jailing journalists – 28 journalists currently languish in Chinese jails.
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Internet “most useful” source for swine flu info

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People followed the swine flu story closely last week. Although most “learned something” about the flu from local TV news and, to a lesser extent, cable news, the Internet came out on top when people were asked which medium was “most useful,” according to a Pew research survey.
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Circulation up slightly for many Canadian newspapers

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Paid daily circulation increased slightly for many Canadian newspapers during the six months ended March 31, according to the latest report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Circulation at the Montreal Gazette rose 13 per cent over the same period last year. However, circulation at the National Post dropped 20 per cent.
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U.S. print journo jobs slashed at a record rate

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U.S. newspapers hacked 5,900 jobs from their newsrooms last year, the largest round of print journalism job reductions since the American Society of News Editors started counting in 1978. The cuts, representing 11.3 per cent of the workforce, left about 46,700 journalists still working in U.S. newsrooms, down from a peak of 56,900 in 1990.
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Local TV news: More hours, produced by fewer people for less pay

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Local television stations provided more hours of weekday news last year despite cutting staff and reducing salaries, according to a study released at the annual Radio-Television News Directors Association convention. Member stations reduced staff levels by about 1,200 people (4.3 per cent) while average salaries declined by 13.3 per cent for reporters, 11.5 per cent for news anchors, 9.1 per cent for weathercasters and 8.9 per cent for sports anchors.
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In Journal: Foxifying British TV news, community journalism and newsroom change

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Selected articles from the April 2009 issue of Journalism of possible interest to the journalism community:

Towards a `Foxification’ of 24-hour news channels in Britain?: An analysis of market-driven and publicly funded news coverage, by Stephen Cushion and Justin Lewis

Making good sense: Transformative processes in community journalism, by Michael Meadows, Susan Forde, Jacqui Ewart, and Kerrie Foxwell

From gospel to news: Evangelicalism and secularization of the Protestant missionary press in China, 1870s—1900s, by Yong Z. Volz and Chin-Chuan Lee

Broader and deeper: A study of newsroom culture in a time of change, by David M. Ryfe

Review Commentary: Is the BBC biased?: The Corporation and the coverage of the 2006 Israeli—Hezbollah war, by Ivor Gaber, Emily Seymour, and Lisa Thomas

Click ‘More’ to read article abstracts.

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Online journalists fear Internet eroding professional values

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Journalists who work online are worried the Internet is undermining journalism’s professional values, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism. A slight majority of respondents believed journalism is on the “wrong track,” with many citing declining journalistic standards as their main concern. However, the study notes, online journalists are more optimistic about the future than those who work in print.
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