Click the following links to explore the sources behind the information presented in the Support Reporting video. Note: The FCC was not involved in the production of the video.
Several studies have attempted to study whether the proliferation of articles has been a result of more reporting. They each find the same thing: most of the increase in volume is based on repurposing of content from a few sources.
They found 53 different outlets. That’s a lot. It would not seem to be a city suffering a shortage of journalism. But then they analyzed all the stories on city affairs: 95 percent of the stories—including those in the new media—were based on reporting done by traditional media (mostly the Baltimore Sun). And those sources were doing less than they had done in the past. Several other studies have had similar findings.
Researchers at the Nieman Journalism Lab looked at 121 distinct stories listed on Google News about attempts to hack into Google from China. They found that only 13 “contained some amount of original reporting” and only “one was produced by a primarily online outlet.” The other 100-plus stories were essentially rewrites, summaries, and links to or rehashes of reporting done by a handful of outlets.
In 2009, Michigan State University researchers looked at 6,811 articles in 466 outlets in 98 cities and concluded that traditional media sources were responsible for 88.6 percent of the news about city governments and 93 percent about suburban governments.
Nate Silver, a statistician and blogger at The New York Times, did a search for the phrase “reported” after the name of a news outlet—as in, “the Chicago Tribune reported”— to see who was providing the underlying information chewed over by the rest of the Internet. Of the top 30 most-cited sources, 29 were traditional news-media outlets (the one exception being gossip site TMZ). (Also see Steven Waldman, Why the Huffington Post Can’t Replace the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Jan. 12, 2009.)
The following material is taken from page 10 of “Information Needs of Communities,” a report produced by the FCC.
Newspaper advertising revenue dropped 47 percent from 2005 to 2009.
Between 2006 and 2009, daily newspapers cut their annual editorial spending $1.6 billion per year, or more than a quarter, according to the Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmonds.
Staff at daily newspapers has shrunk by more than 25 percent since 2006, with some major newspapers seeing half their staffs disappear in a matter of a few years. There are about as many journalists working today as there were before Watergate.
Television network news staffs have declined by half from the late 1980s.
Newsmagazine reporting staffs have dropped by almost half since 1985.
The number of all-news local radio stations has dropped from 50 in the mid-1980s to 30, which reach a third of the country.
Only about 20 to 30 percent of the population has access to a local all-news cable channel.
There are 520 local TV stations that air no local news at all (258 commercial stations and 262 noncommercial stations). Considering those, along with stations that air less than 30 minutes of local news per day, 33 percent of commercial stations currently offer little or no local news.
“Information Needs of Communities,” page 16:
But so far these new websites are not large enough or self-sustaining enough to fill the gaps left by newspaper layoffs. In a recent survey of 66 local news websites, half reported that their organizations drew in annual income of less than $50,000, and three-quarters reported annual income of less than $100,000. That is not a typographical error; it is annual income for the whole website.