Journalism’s Slow Fade

jjLate last month, the 2016 Lecture Series at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Carmel, CA hosted a panel discussion focusing on the topic “Changing Society, Technology and Media.”

The panelists included Ted Koppel, former anchor of ABC News’ Nightline, Howard Kurtz, host of FAX News’ Media Buzz, and Judy Woodruff, co-anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour show.

During the discussion, Ted Koppel expressed his dismay over the decline of journalism as a professional discipline, noting that the rise of social media and blogging have created an environment where news and information are no longer “vetted” by professional news-gatherers.

One can agree or disagree with Koppel about whether the “democratization” of media represents regression rather than progress, but one thing that cannot be denied is that the rise of “mobile media” has sparked a decline in the overall number of professional media jobs.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics can quantify the trend pretty convincingly. As summarized in a report published in the American Consumers Newsletter, until the introduction of smartphones in 2007, the effect of the Internet on jobs in traditional media, newspapers, magazines and book had been, on balance, rather slight.

To wit, between 1993 and 2007, U.S. employment changes in the following segments looked like this:

  • Book Industry: Net increase of ~700 jobs
  • Magazines: Net decline of ~300 jobs
  • Newspapers: Net decline of ~79,000 jobs

True, the newspaper industry had been hard hit, but other segments not nearly so much, and indeed there had been net increases charted also in radio, film and TV.

But with the advent of the smartphone, Internet and media access underwent a transformation into something personal and portable. Look how that has impacted on jobs in the same media categories when comparing 2007 to 2016 employment:

  • Book Industry: Net loss of ~20,700 jobs
  • Magazines: Net loss of ~48,400 jobs
  • Newspapers: Net loss of ~168,200 jobs

Of course, new types of media jobs have sprung up during this period, particularly in Internet publishing and broadcasting. But those haven’t begun to make up for the losses noted in the segments above.

According to BLS statistics, Internet media employment grew by ~125,300 between 2007 and 2016 — but that’s less than half the losses charted elsewhere.

All told, factoring in the impact of TV, radio and film, there has been a net loss of nearly 160,000 U.S. media jobs since 2007.


You’d be hard-pressed to find any other industry in the United States that has sustained such steep net losses over the past decade or so.

Much to the chagrin of old-school journalists, newspaper readership has plummeted in recent years — and with it newspaper advertising revenues (both classified and display).

The change in behavior is across the board, but it’s particularly age-based. These usage figures tell it all:

  • In 2007, ~33% of Americans age 18 to 34 read a daily newspaper … today it’s just 16%.
  • Even among Americans age 45 to 64, more than 50% read a daily newspaper in 2007 … today’s it’s around one third.
  • And among seniors age 65 and up, whereas two-thirds read a daily paper in 2007, today it’s just 50%.

With trends like that, the bigger question is how traditional media have been able to hang in there as long as they have. Because if it were simply dollars and cents being considered, the job losses would have been even steeper.

Perhaps we should take people like Jeff Bezos — who purchased the Washington Post newspaper not so long ago — at their word:  Maybe they do wish to see traditional journalism maintain its relevance even as the world around it is changing rapidly.

The Millennial generation: Are they redefining the concept of “news consumption”?

News consumption habits (millennials)Recently, I read an interesting column written by Emily Anatole that addresses how the Millennial generation is reshaping the concept of “news” and how it is consumed.

Anatole notes that Millennials are criticized for not being news consumers, but she argues against this point. 

In her view, the younger generation is simply getting their news in a different way.  She writes:  “Milleninials’ approach to consumer news reflects how they differ … they perceive the ‘power of the pack’ – or Facebook updates, tweets and trending topics as we know them – as more valuable than the fact-checked, overly polished POV of one reporter.”

Anatole’s company, research firm Youth Pulse, Inc. (YPulse), conducted a survey in October 2012 of ~1,800 people aged 14-34, which found that television remains the top way in which this age group gets the news, with more than 70% reporting that they turn to TV to stay informed.

However, two-thirds of the respondents also reported that they get their news from Facebook, while approximately one-third get news from Twitter.

If these stats seem a bit unusual for those of us in the over-40 or -50 set, consider this:  Today’s 17-year-old was barely twelve when the iPhone first came out. 

So an environment in which comments, updates and opinions aren’t part of the “standard media mix” isn’t just a quaint memory; for Millennials, it never existed!

For the younger generation, becoming part-and parcel of “journalism” in its broadest sense is an integral part of the equation.  Uploading or sharing videos, tweeting a comment, updating a social status … it’s all part of a “co-created experience” where the lines are blurred between the media industry and consumers of the news.

Impatience has always been a trait of the young — as far back as the Children’s Crusade or even before.  So it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Millennials would tend to go for “immediacy” over “credibility.” 

Given the choice of learning something “first” — even if the details or veracity of the story are sketchy — versus waiting around for a well-curated 5:00 pm news broadcast … well, it’s not even a fair fight anymore.

And here’s another important point to consider:  Whereas we older generation-types were trained to seek out news by buying the daily paper or tuning in to a radio or TV broadcast, today’s younger generation can afford to be less perspicacious.  The news comes to them without barely lifting a finger because of friends and others in their social sphere sharing stories, leaving comments, and tweeting.

Some believe it’s yet another “e-volution” that’s turning out to be more “re-volutionary” than we could have imagined. 

What’s your take?