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Local TV news is more threatened than newspapers

The former executive editor of the “Washington Post” said last week there’s a better chance of television news disappearing than newspapers. Len Downie Jr. spoke at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Although both newspapers and local TV news are financially troubled, local television news could face a tougher future as newspapers and their larger staffs provide more video via the Web, Downie said. “I think there’s just as good a chance of local television news disappearing as newspapers disappearing — and probably more of a chance actually.”

For example, the “Washington Post” has more than 100 reporters covering just the Washington area, while the largest TV station in the market has about a dozen reporters covering the same area, Downie noted. “As much as newspaper newsrooms are being squeezed, local television newsrooms are being squeezed more.”

Downie retired last month after 17 years as the “Post’s” top editor and currently serves as vice president at large for The Washington Post Co. In an interview with the Cronkite News Service, Downie said newspapers are becoming more entrepreneurial as they explore ways to make money with their content. The “Post,” for example, is delivering more news to handheld devices, including an experiment to send updated scores from certain high school football games to people’s cell phones.

“The difference is that before we weren’t looking for those things,” Downie said.