03.16.2004 12:00 PM
Local news product “thinning” as newsrooms do more without adding staff, says study

Journalists prepare the news at the Inland California Television Network (ICTN), a highly automated, multichannel television network serving the San BernardinoValley. Photo courtesy of Digital System Technology.

A new study of news operations across the entire spectrum of media has found that most local television news “invests little in improving the product” and that the money spent on news is being invested in technology “and has been mandated by the government in exchange for bandwidth.”

The study released this week by the Project for Excellence in Journalism asserts that the news product of local stations is “getting thinner” and newsroom resources are being stretched. This is happening while local TV news faces an emerging threat from the Internet to what makes it special, namely immediacy, the ability to be updated and availability, the study said. Convergence and improving the news product could help local news operations answer the threat, it said.

However, while the industry “seems disposed” to convergence, there appears to be a lack of commitment to improving the end product, the study said. “Indeed, most of the evidence would seem to suggest the opposite.”

The comprehensive study of news media operations looks at trends in newspapers, magazines, and local and cable television journalism, and news operations.

Among the study findings about investment in local newsrooms are:

  • The demand for news product is increasing, but the newsroom workforce is remaining static or declining.

  • This staffing trend is “hollowing” the local news product.

  • Centralcasting workflow is being used by some stations. Weather and some anchors are located in other cities without telling viewers.

  • “Hubbing” is where stations buy content such as local traffic reports. Many stations are experimenting with purchasing sports reporting and anchoring from outside vendors.

  • A few companies are taking advantage of “duopoly” ownership in local markets and are producing news for two stations from one newsroom.

To read the complete study, please visit: www.stateofthenewsmedia.org.

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