May 17, 2009

Journalism hurting? Editors say staff cuts hurting quality

The good news is that surveyed editors say they are staying in the news business because they believe in the mission of journalism.

The bad news is nearly a third of the editors participating in an Associated Press Managing Editors survey say staff reductions are affecting the quality of journalism offered.

"We rarely work on packages or series of depth anymore," one editor said. "We can't afford to give a reporter the time to work it. They are too busy doing all the meat-and-potatoes stuff."

And though 60 percent of the editors believe newspapers will become profitable again, most say a lack of staff and money prevent innovation and change.

At least one newspaper editor found a bright side in the layoffs and buyouts elsewhere:

"With the economy in the tank, I find I can hire higher-quality people than usual, so that helps make up for the cuts. However, I've ridden through other recessions so I know that when/if things loosen up, we may be back to entry-level hiring."

The APME survey, sent to 1,700 editors and answered by 351, also found:
  • 71% citing the mission of journalism as the main reason why they stay in the business. That includes the APME President: I believe in the mission
  • 40% plan to emphasize hyperlocal news more and national/world news less;
  • 60% think newspapers will find a way to become profitable;
Other questions hint that the profitability may come by charging more for print (28%), charging for online content (28%) and print-only features (20%).

I think one of the sadder pieces is that so many see a need for change and yet face overwhelming barriers to implementing change.

Yes, less staff and lack of money is a barrier. But I also think attitude is a barrier when I read a comment like this:
"Everyone's looking for a way to "save" newspapers, but the truth is we have to be so completely different than what we've been, it's too hard for the old guard to get their heads or hearts around."
Or is it a lack of believing, of people too comfortable:
"I'm going to hunker down until the economy improves."
"It's not that the pay is "too good to walk away" as much as it is "this paycheck is better than none."
I think some know they need to move on, but don't:
"By the time we're through this transition, I may be ready to step aside – if I'm not pushed aside first.
The unwillingness to change is also what bothered Newspaper Tiger Sharon Hill in a post on the Community Newspapers - Hear them Roar blog.

Oh, and 19 percent expect to layoff more people and 5% expect to drop some print editions.

More results and comments are available on APME's site.


Post a Comment