For people who might be hoping for a turnaround in the news industry that could take us back to a world more like the one we once knew – you know, with actual journalists writing primary-sourced stories and conducting formal fact-checking – those days seem less likely than ever to return.
In late July, analytics firm MediaRadar reported on the latest stats for print advertising in the United States – and they’re continuing a long slide by falling another 13% between January and April of 2018.
Even worse: Most of the companies that stopped their print advertising during the period didn’t migrate their ad dollars over to digital. Instead, they stopped advertising altogether.
This by now numbingly-familiar trend in advertising is directly related to the financial well-being of the news media, as advertising has traditionally bankrolled the lion’s share of newsroom activities.
But with revenues dropping relentlessly, it’s having an outsized impact on newsroom employment. The Pew Research Center has just released stats on the number of employees in American newsrooms – and those figures aren’t pretty, either.
According to Pew, in 2008 America’s newsrooms collectively had approximately 114,000 reporters, editors, photographers and camera personnel on staff. As of 2017, the number had plummeted to around 88,000.
That loss of ~27,000 people represents nearly 25% of all the newsroom jobs that were existed in newspaper, radio, TV/cable and other information services in 2008.
Not surprisingly, the biggest decline was experienced in the newspaper segment – down a whopping 45% to ~39,000 jobs. The digital-native sector was something of a bright spot, with job numbers increasing by nearly 80% over the same period to reach a level of ~13,000 jobs in 2017.
But digital news personnel growth hasn’t been nearly enough to make up for the job losses suffered by the other newsrooms.
What’s more, even digital newsroom jobs aren’t particularly secure, with frequent restructurings being the order of the day thanks to the unsettled nature of the industry as it attempts to adjust to ever-evolving news-consumption preferences.
How are news media organizations responding? Give them credit for trying all sorts of gambits – from membership programs to paid newsletters, premium news paywalls and in-house content studios.
But how many of those efforts have proven to be financially robust enough to shoulder the costs of running a “legitimate” newsroom? Whatever the number, it hasn’t been sufficient, because whether we like it or not, most people have become conditioned to expect their news and information delivered free of charge. And while many may lip service to favoring traditional journalistic practices, most aren’t willing to put up their own money to pay for it as part of the bargain.
Meanwhile, the hollowing out of traditionally structured newsrooms continues on, with no end in sight. I wonder if there even are other financial or business models that could stop the hemorrhaging of jobs in newsrooms.
Does anyone have any other suggestions?