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Local stations still rely on newspapers for news

Despite the economic turmoil of recent months, the nation’s newspapers are still the main source of local news — far ahead of local television stations and Web sites, new research has found.

The study, conducted by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, monitored 53 media outlets including newspapers, television and radio stations and Web-only news operations. The findings are based on an analysis of how local news stories evolved in Baltimore, MD, during one week last summer.

Sixty-one percent of original reporting or fresh information came from newspapers and their Web sites. Local television stations and their Web sites accounted for 28 percent of the new information, followed by radio stations and their sites at 7 percent and Internet-only Web sites at 4 percent.

The study’s conclusions bolster the arguments of newspaper publishers and editors who argue their publications are indispensable sources of information about their communities. Yet, the newspaper industry has been losing hundreds of millions in revenue annually to Google, blogs and other Web sites that crib from their stories to help attract more readers and sell more advertising.

“This study does suggest that if newspapers were to disappear, what would be left to aggregate?” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Television news coverage has been reduced in recent years in reaction to declining ratings in the evening and the economic distress of television stations. To save money, TV newscasts are relying more on narrative accounts read in the studio instead of sending reporters to news scenes. TV reporters, the study found, often pull their information from newspapers.

Overall, more than 80 percent of the coverage published and broadcast during the study period contained old information wrapped in a different package. “Much of the ‘news’ people receive contains no original reporting,” the study found.

More commonly than in the past, the study found press releases from politicians, government agencies and companies were rewritten quickly by multiple outlets and posted on the Web with no additional reporting.