TV News Crews Continue to Do More with Less

WASHINGTON: The lemonade perspective is that fewer news jobs were cut in 2009 versus 2008. This, according to the annual survey from the Radio Television Digital News Association and Hofstra University.

The ongoing reality is that news teams continue to do more with less, RTNDA said. “All told, 400 people in local TV news lost their jobs--1.5 percent of the local TV workforce. A bad year, but not nearly as bad a when 1,200 people lost jobs in TV news--4.3 percent of the workforce.”

Smaller market stations cut fewer jobs than those in larger ones. Also, the typical TV station hired three people last year to replace people who left and for “0.6 new positions.”

Even though staffing numbers declined overall, the people left standing continued doing more work. The amount of local news on average rose to a record high of five hours a week. On a bit brighter note, a majority of news directors said no further news room cuts were planned.

“In a dramatic turnaround from a year ago, over 60 percent of TV news directors say they expect staffing levels to stay the same,” the survey said. “That’s up nearly 20 points from a year ago.”

The number of stations originating news dropped slightly--from 770 last year to 762 at the start of 2010.

Last year’s originators supplied another 205 stations, for a total of 975 running local news. This year, 224 stations were supplied with news from another station, bringing the total to 986 stations running local news. Only one network affiliate was said to have dropped news completely in 2009.

The survey said Fox affiliates were the most likely to add news, while CBS stations were more likely to cut than others.

The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in 4Q09 among all 1,770 operating, non-satellite TV stations and a random sample of 4,000 radio stations. Respondents included about 200 radio news directors and general managers from 300 radio stations.

-- Deborah D. McAdams

(Image by Jim)