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Signs point to improving job picture of local TV journalists, survey finds

After two years of declines in newsroom staffing and mounting pressure to do more news with fewer resources, there appears to be a ray of hope with far fewer news directors planning layoffs and more anticipating new hires this year compared to 2009, according to data released April 14 from the RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey.

More than 60 percent of TV news directors say they plan no staffing changes this year — up 20 percent from a year ago, the survey found. The number planning layoffs dropped 77 percent for 2009, and the percentage of those expecting to increase staff rose 145 percent, according to the survey.

The findings mark a dramatic reversal from the preceding two years, which saw a local TV news workforce reduction of 1200 people, or 4.3 percent, in 2008 and 400 person decline, or 1.5 percent, last year. Despite the declines, the total number of hours of local news produced daily has grown to an all-time high of five hours, up from 4.7 hours in 2009, the survey found.

According to the survey, 2009 began with 770 TV stations producing original local news and sharing news with another 205 stations, for a total of 975 using the content. Going into 2010, a net loss of eight stations left 762 stations producing original local news and sharing it with another 224, for a total of 986 stations, the survey found.

Only one network affiliate simply dropped local news completely in 2009. Most of the cuts involved independent stations, and many wound up continuing to run local news but getting it from another station.