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Journalists say bottom line hurting coverage

Journalists are growing more concerned that bottom-line financial pressures are “seriously hurting” the quality of news coverage, according to a survey taken at a time when news organizations face increased competition for readers and viewers.

A majority of national and local journalists say they think financial pressures are hurting coverage, said the survey released Sunday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

“Journalists are in a glummer mood than we’ve found them in the past,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. “That view is much more prevalent where cutbacks have happened.”

The number of national journalists who think bottom-line financial pressures are hurting coverage was 66 percent this year, compared with about 40 percent in a Pew survey from 1995.

Just under six in 10 local journalists were more worried about financial pressures hurting quality, compared with one-third in 1995.

Business pressures forcing changes
More than half of the executives at national news organizations said increased business pressures are “just changing the way news organizations do things.”

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said a news media study earlier this year found many news organizations have cut staff.

“We found that most sectors of the news media, other than online and ethnic media, are losing audience because there is so much more competition,” Rosenstiel said.

About half of those whom Pew surveyed from newspapers and magazines said they have seen reductions in the size of their newsroom staff in the past three years.

Despite these concerns about cut, about seven in 10 news professionals say the management in their news operation is excellent or good.

National journalists were more likely than a decade ago to say there are too many factual errors in coverage, while local reporters were less inclined to say that was a problem.

Plagiarism not a wide-spread problem
A majority of journalists of all backgrounds and different type of operations said they do not think plagiarism is more widespread now, despite widely publicized cases in the past year.

The survey found a reduction in the number of journalists who think news reporters are too cynical and many now think they are too timid.

More than half of national journalists say the press has not been critical enough of President Bush. Local journalists were about evenly split between thinking the press is not critical enough or is fair in its treatment of the president.

Nearly eight in 10 in both the national and local news media say that not enough attention is paid to complex issues, similar to Pew’s findings on this question in 1995 and 1999.

A majority of news professionals say the emergence of the Internet has made journalism better, especially because it has improved research methods.

The survey was taken from March 10 through April 20 of 547 national and local journalists, both print and broadcast. The sample was chosen from national directories of staffers, editors and executives at newspapers, magazines, wire services, national networks and local television stations from the 100 largest markets.

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