Pondering More News Outlets, Fewer Reporters, and the Plight of Jill Carroll

Bloggers respond to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism which found that while the number of news outlets has been expanding, the number of news gatherers has been shrinking.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism recently released the State of the News Media 2006. This year’s study noted, among other trends, that while the number of news outlets in this country has been rapidly expanding, the amount of actual news gatherers has been simultaneously shrinking.

“The new paradox of journalism is more outlets covering fewer stories,” the study noted. “As the number of places delivering news proliferates, the audience for each tends to shrink and the number of journalists in each organization is reduced.”

Speaking of news outlets with small audiences and a lack of original reporting, some bloggers responded to the study today by once again congratulating themselves for their own relevancy.

“As a practitioner of public journalism, I often had to contend with other journalists complaint that the citizens really didn’t have much to say,” wrote PJNet Today. “Now journalists are learning that citizens not only have a lot to say, but in many ways they are driving the conversation…The challenge for traditional journalism is whether it can reassert its position as the provider of something distinctive and valuable - both for citizens and advertisers.”

Other bloggers appeared to have actually read the study and chose to take a realistic view of their collective contributions.

“What I glean from this study is that the majority of bloggers generally amplify news through pointers and commentary to information others might not see,” wrote Micro Persuasion. “They’re not conducting real thorough reporting. The data points really don’t say that here, but it sure hints it. The report just says that bloggers haven’t institutionalized some of the same practices that the pros have.”

Other bloggers simply seemed puzzled that anyone would spend so much time studying the MSM — rather than, say, bloggers.

“Blogs are included, but here the material seems less enlightening,” wrote Undercurrent. “As with the other media, a small amount of blogs (some of the most popular politics-oriented blogs) are selected and then analyzed in detail….So the bloggers help diversify the news, with different angles and interpretations. It can be argued that that’s a more important task than the report allows for. But it would be even more interesting to analyze a larger number of blogs to find macro level patterns.”

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, the Committee to Protect Bloggers has launched a campaign to free Jill Carroll the freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor who was recently kidnapped in Baghdad and is still believed to be alive.

“The Monitor has started a campaign, using Iraqi television, to distribute a video asking for Iraqis to help find and free Jill,” wrote the Committee. “Jill is not a blogger but she’s got that spirit. She’s an independent intellect who is fascinated by the world and has a desire to speak what she sees. So let’s not leave it up to the newspapers and television stations. She’s ours as much as theirs.”

“So, I would like to ask every blogger who gives a damn about individual human life and the individual human voice, to post a link to this video on their blog, to blog about Jill and to pass along our concern to friends, family and other bloggers,” added the Committee. “Of greatest import are Iraqi blogs and blogs in the Arabic and Muslim worlds that may be read by people in a position to do good for Jill.”

Correction: The item on PJNet.org refers to the State of the News Media 2004 and 2005, not 2006.

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Felix Gillette writes about the media for The New York Observer.