The News Ecosystem Fosters Repetition

A new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that while the news landscape has rapidly expanded, 95% of what the public learns is still overwhelmingly driven by traditional media, particularly newspapers. The study, examining all of the outlets that produced local news in Baltimore, Md., for one week, finds that eight out of ten stories studied simply repeated or repackaged previously published information. These stories then tended to set the narrative agenda for most other media outlets, says the report.

Sector From Which New Information Reported (Six Key Storylines)

Sector

% of All Stories

Print

48%

Local TV

28

Niche media

13

Radio

7

New media

4

Source: Pew Research Center, January 2010

The expanding universe of new media, including blogs, Twitter and local websites in Baltimore, played only a limited role notes the report, mainly an alert system and a way to disseminate stories from other places. New technology was more prevalent as a way for media, both traditional and new, to break news more quickly.  The Web is now clearly the first place of publication.

Triggers of News Coverage

Trigger

% of News "triggered"

Government

62%

Press

16

Citizen

12

College/University

10

Spontaneous event

1

Source: Pew Research Center, January 2010

As news is posted faster, notes the study, often with little enterprise reporting added, the official version of events is becoming more important. Official press releases often appear word for word in first accounts of events, though often not noted as such.  The study found numerous examples of websites carrying sections of other people's work without attribution, and often suggesting original reporting was added when none was.

Some of the results of a close examination by Pew Research of the media covering Baltimore, MD, during the week of July 19-25, 2009, includes these findings: 

  • 53 different news outlets regularly produce some kind of local news content, a universe that ranges from blogs to talk radio to news sites created by former journalists. These multi-platform operations also make robust use of Twitter as a way means of dissemination.
  • Among the six major news threads studied in depth, 83% were essentially repetitive, conveying no new information. Of the 17% that did contain new information, nearly all came from traditional media either in their legacy platforms or in new digital ones.
  • General interest newspapers produced half 48% of these stories, and specialty newspapers, focused on business and law, produced another 13%.
  • Local television stations and their websites accounted for 28% of the enterprise reporting on the major stories of the week, radio station websites accounted for 7%, and the remaining nine new media outlets accounted for just 4% of the enterprise reporting.
  • Newspapers, TV and radio produced nearly a third of their stories on new platforms (31%), though that number varied by sector. Almost half of the newspapers stories studied were online rather than in print.
  • Reproducing other people's work has become a bigger part of the news media system. Government, in this study, initiates most of the news. In the detailed examination of six major storylines, 63% of the stories were initiated by government officials, led first of all by the police. Another 14% came from the press.

Of the more than four dozen outlets identified as producing original content about local events in Baltimore, there are four local TV stations, all with their own websites, five general interest newspapers, four general interest websites in town, five local blogs, and more than 30 that exist inside the universe of the Baltimore Sun newspaper website. 

  • Local TV newsrooms produced more content than any other sector, an average of 73 stories per station
  • 64% of the stories on the local 6 p.m. TV newscasts were about local matters
  • 52% of the segments in talk radio were about national or non-local events
  • 85% of the postings or stories in new media were locally focused and mostly locally produced
  • 80% of newspaper stories were straight news accounts written by local staffers

Leading News Topics by Media Sector (All Stories)

Media Sector

 

% of Stories

 

Total%

Local TV

Print

Radio

Niche

New Media

Crime

16%

23%

17%

7%

0%

16%

Government

15

12

15

19

16

20

Business

10

3

11

7

35

10

Health/Medicine

8

11

7

8

3

8

Accidents

8

13

3

5

1

8

Courts

6

4

5

4

17

6

Education

6

5

11

1

4

6

Economy

4

3

4

4

12

4

Transportation

4

1

8

5

1

4

Misc.

5

5

3

12

0

5

Lifestyle

3

1

3

7

0

3

Environment

2

1

3

1

3

2

Science

2

2

2

2

0

2

Weather/Traffic/Sports

5

11

0

4

0

5

All other

6

5

8

14

8

1

Source: Pew Research Center, January 2010

The array of local outlets within this snapshot is already substantial, concludes the report, and as times goes on, new media, specialized outlets and local bloggers are almost certain to grow in number and expand their capacity. New outlets such as local news aggregators, who combine this increasingly mixed universe into one online destination, have cropped up in some other cities. There is a good deal of innovation going on around the country, but as of 2009, this is what the news looks like in one American city. 

For more about the complete study, please visit Pew here.

  

 

 

 

 

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1 comment about "The News Ecosystem Fosters Repetition".
  1. Jeffrey Fry from Profit Prophet , January 20, 2010 at 4:12 p.m.

    Interesting how the death of traditional media has been highly exaggerated.