Express Express Read All About It: Has the demand for express news affected news quality?

By: Emily Wilson


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INTRODUCTION

In an increasingly technological driven world, the demand for express news coupled with decreasing revenue and jobs cuts brings forward concerns over news quality. This background report will use a variety of opinions, information and data from reliable sources to investigate how news quality is affected by the trust the public places in media professionals, the technological effect on print media, journalism job cuts and the decline of investigative journalism. This report will evaluate whether the demand for express news has affected the quality of journalism and created the media mindset of quantity over quality.

 

EVALUATION

 

Public Trust in Media Professionals

In April 2014, independent market research company Roy Morgan1, released the results of an Image of Professions Survey and found that most Australians do not trust media professionals (TV reporters, Newspaper Journalists and Talk back radio announcers).2  The survey found that less than one in five Australian rated TV Reporters and Newspaper Journalists (18%) favourably. Talk-back radio announcers received a lower percentage of 15 percent, less than one in seven people. Since last year the trust in media professionals has slightly decreased with the exception of TV reporters which remained steady. These results are low in comparison to nurses who rated highest in ethics and honesty at 91 per cent.3

This is troubling as a lack of trust in media professionals equates to a lack of trust in the information they provide; the news. This is especially worrying as journalists are intended to act as the watchdog for the public.4 The information they provide must be in an honest manner, free of bias and contain well researched facts and information. This lack of trust supports the theory that the quality of news information is a relevant issue in society today.

 

Technological effect on print media

Adding to a lack of news quality is the age old debate that print news is being overrun by online publications. Technological platforms allow the public to access news and information quicker and easier online. The Pew Research Centre, (an online database that “conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research5”) has released the State of the News Media Annual Report, which found that online news consumption was the only category to have shown growth, increasing by 15 per cent from 2004. In comparison news consumption from Television has declined five per cent, Radio has declined seven per cent and Newspapers have declined 13 per cent.6  This increase in online news consumption stems from the 24 hour accessibility of online news. This generates a demand for express news and creates impracticable deadlines for journalists, resulting in news content that is not well sourced, sensational, trivialised and in general soft and of bad quality.7

The rise of online news has also resulted in a decline in print news through the loss of advertising revenue. The Pew Research State of the Media 2013 Annual Report found that from 2006, print advertising revenue declined while online advertising revenue continued to climb. Print advertising revenue has decreased by 60 per cent from 2006 while online advertising revenue has increased by 26 per cent.8 By 2012, the Centre reports, the ratio had equated to 15 print dollars lost for every one online dollar gained, much higher than the 10 to one ratio in 2011.8 The loss of advertising revenue has a negative effect on the print media, as they become replaced by online news outlets.

 

Journalism Job Cuts

The loss of advertising revenue for print media has a knock on effect on journalist employment. The true number of Australian employed journalists varies on account of differing definitions. Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show a nine per cent decrease from 2006 to 2011, in the number of print, radio and television journalists employed.9,10 This may not indicate a large employment cut, but in the three years since those statistics were released there have been large scale redundancies across many of the major media corporations. It is estimated that in the year from 2012 to 2013 over 1200 journalists jobs were cut.11 Andrea Carson reported that Fairfax’s media has off-shored 66 sub-editorial jobs, reduced the size of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, losing 1900 jobs in the process and closing the door of the Tullamarine plant and Chullora, printer of the SMH, Australia’s oldest masthead, also resulting in job cuts, 150 of which will be editorial.12 Marcus Strom, strategic campaigner future of journalism project of the Media Entertainment and Art Alliance, the union representing Journalists, gave a quote on the subject.

We think there were more than 500 journalists redundancies from News Limited, around 300 to 400 at Fairfax and then around 80 to 100 Channel Ten  plus other losses at various other titles.13

Such great redundancies will have a negative effect on the quality of the news. With the loss of workers, journalists become stressed with less time to complete the additional tasks left behind by redundant co-workers.  The quality of news information suffers as the demand for news overtakes the journalist’s abilities and information is not properly written, checked or edited. Entire departments are prone to disappear and the range of the news diminishes.

 

Decline of Investigative Journalism

One of the first departments to disappear is the Investigative Journalism Department. Investigative Journalism is a trade that requires, time, effort and a substantial budget. The role investigative journalist’s play is that of the watchdog of society. They protect the public by surveying the government and other powerful institutions, reporting their policies and activities and thereby making them publicly accountable.14 It is one of the most important sections of the news as it exposes corruption and helps balances the media. However due to tightening budgets and decreasing revenue the ability to dedicate time and energy to produce interesting, in-depth stories shrinks and Investigative Journalism is often the first to go. The American Journalism Review, a publication by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, focused on reporting and commenting on the news media15, released an article, ‘ Investigative Shortfall’16 , in which it found that although non-profit investigative journalism companies, such as ProPublica17 are desperately trying to fill the void, the watchdog reporting of journalism is declining. The articles reports that the memberships of the Investigative Reporters and Editors declined from 5,391 in 2003, to a 10-year low of 3,695 in 2009. It is also reported that applications for Pulitzer Prizes; awards honouring Excellence in journalism and the arts since 1997;18 have dropped 40 per cent.

The statistics show that Investigative Journalism, especially in print media is in decline. The Report contains videos that offer many journalists the opportunity to effectively explain why investigative journalism is declining through their experiences as an Investigative Journalist. A particularly effective explanation is that of Roberta Baskin, former director of the investigative teams at WJLA. See the Video Here: http://ajrarchive.org/article.asp?id=4904

With the disappearance of Investigative Journalism comes inferior news quality and the capacity for corruption. The article from the American Journalism Review quotes, when Investigative journalists are made redundant, ‘the bad guys get away with things.’ As resources in the newsroom regress, and time and effort wanes, Investigative journalism pieces transfer into the publication of trivial tabloid stories that are filled with celebrities and scandal. These pieces are entertaining yet they are capable of blinding the public of deceit and concealing the real issues in the world. Without the hard-hitting Investigative Journalism pieces, corruption among powerful people and corporations cannot be exposed and the quality of the news suffers, as educating pieces turn into entertaining tabloid stories.

 

CONCLUSION

It is supported that over the past few years the quality of news has declined and the media has formed the mindset of quantity over quality. As technological platforms overtake print media, the demands for express news increases and journalists are faced with extreme deadlines, leaving them with information that is not well sourced and not up to standard. Online news technology has also resulted in revenue cuts in print media creating job losses and putting even more pressure on struggling journalists. Perhaps the greatest evidence of lack of news quality is the disappearance of investigative journalism teams. With evidence supporting the decline in investigative journalism jobs, the media content falters, as there is no watchdog reporting to expose corruption and educate the public on the alarming issues in the world. It is unsurprising that statistics show the public does not trust media professionals if the information they are providing is not of sufficient quality. With the mindset of quantity not quality in the media brought on by advances in technology, increase in an online news presence, decline of print media and the disappearance of investigative journalism, it is clear that the quality of news has suffered.

Word Count: 1483

 

References:

  1. http://www.roymorgan.com/about
  2. http://www.roymorgan.com/~/media/Files/Findings%20PDF/2014/April/5544-Image-of-Media-Professionals.pdf
  3. http://www.roymorgan.com.au/~/media/Files/Findings%20PDF/2014/April/5531-Image-of-Professions-2014-April-2014.pdf
  4. Franklin, Bob; Hogan, Mike; Langley, Quentin; Mosdell, Nick; Pill, Elliot. 2009. Key Concepts in Public Relations. n.p: Sage Publishing. Accessed 29 March 2014. http://reader.eblib.com.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/(S(htmpxogksf5h0kovo1mv1bda))/Reader.aspx?p=585404&o=96&u=Zd7hfGqVVJBa6k%2bJqQKuBw%3d%3d&t=1396158570&h=8B2C21E19EE648BAC77443ECACC312CC27800E1E&s=11879721&ut=245&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1#
  5. http://www.pewresearch.org/about/
  6. http://stateofthemedia.org/files/2013/11/1-digital-grows-again-as-source-for-news.xlsx
  7. http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/tracking_news-quality_declines.php?page=all
  8. http://stateofthemedia.org/files/2013/05/1-Newspaper-Print-Advertising-Revenues-Fall-Online-Grows.xlsx
  9. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/E4088063ED40808DCA257968000CBCFD?opendocument
  10. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4172.0main+features142012
  11. http://mumbrella.com.au/is-this-the-worst-time-to-be-a-journalist-155470
  12. http://theconversation.com/death-by-1-900-cuts-will-quality-journalism-thrive-under-fairfaxs-new-model-7734
  13. http://mumbrella.com.au/is-this-the-worst-time-to-be-a-journalist-155470
  14. Franklin, Bob; Hogan, Mike; Langley, Quentin; Mosdell, Nick; Pill, Elliot. 2009. Key Concepts in Public Relations. n.p: Sage Publishing. Accessed 29 March 2014. http://reader.eblib.com.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/(S(htmpxogksf5h0kovo1mv1bda))/Reader.aspx?p=585404&o=96&u=Zd7hfGqVVJBa6k%2bJqQKuBw%3d%3d&t=1396158570&h=8B2C21E19EE648BAC77443ECACC312CC27800E1E&s=11879721&ut=245&pg=1&r=img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1#
  15. http://ajr.org/about/
  16. http://ajrarchive.org/article.asp?id=4904
  17. http://www.propublica.org/
  18. http://www.pulitzer.org/faq

Infro Graph created by infogr.am, Picktochart and easel.ly

Photos credits in order of appearance

Taiyo Okamoto and Joseph Reid from http://www.cool-ny.com/en/archives/930

http://blog.ebyline.com/2013/12/what-newsweeks-print-resurrection-means-for-brands/

http://www.pulitzer.org/

http://www.thecitizen.org.au/media/hold-front-page-despite-money-woes-news-outlets-doing-more-investigative-journalism-not-less

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