Many news executives also sense change for the better in their newsrooms today, despite cutbacks and declining revenue:
Half of all those surveyed are confident their operations will survive another 10 years without significant new sources of revenue. Nearly a third believe their operations are at risk in just five years or less. And many blame the problems on their industry's missed opportunities.
"Our mantra this year is experiment and fail quickly," one newspaper news executive volunteered. "Don't be afraid of change and don't stick with something too long if it doesn't work."
The survey found some significant differences in the attitudes between leaders of newspaper-based newsrooms and those of broadcast. Broadcast news executives were strikingly more pessimistic, with those who see journalism headed in the wrong direction outnumbering those who think it is headed in the right direction by almost two-to-one. Leaders of newspaper newsrooms, by contrast, are split, with a slight tilt toward optimism.
Thinking About Journalism Overall In The U.S. Today, Do You Think It Is Generally Going In The Right Direction Or The Wrong Direction?
Source: PewResearch, April 2010
When it comes to the often-discussed option of pay walls for online content:
In other discussed revenue streams, fully 75% of news executives have serious reservations about receiving government subsidies, and 78% have significant resistance to financing from interest groups. Roughly half have significant worries about funds from government tax credits and more than a third have significant doubts about private donations.
Most of the effort online is focused instead on more conventional revenue sources. Display and banner online advertising, for all that it has failed to grow, is still the No. 1 area of effort and the one that news executives pin their greatest hopes on. But second is revenue from products outside of news.
Broadcast news executives are noticeably more pessimistic about journalism's future than editors at newspaper-based operations.
And most news executives think the Internet is changing the fundamental values of journalism. Six out of ten feel this way, though executives from broadcast operations do so more than executives from newspapers. And their biggest concern is loosening standards of accuracy and verification, much of it tied to the immediacy of the Web.
"Do You Think That The Internet Is Changing The Fundamental Values Of Journalism Or Would You Say That Journalism's Fundamental Values Are Transferring To The Internet?"
Internet is changing values
Journalism values are transferring to the internet
Source: PewResearch, April 2010
Among those who see values changing, there is a broad consensus about the direction- and it is primarily negative. When asked to explain what they meant, majorities of both groups appeared most worried about loosening standards (62% of newspaper executives and 67% among broadcasters), and the bulk of these responses referred to a decline in accuracy, a lessening of fact-checking, and more unsourced reporting.
If The Internet Is Changing The Fundamental Values Of Journalism, In What Way(S) Is It Changing Them? (Open-ended question; total may exceed 100% due to multiple responses)
% of Group Responding
Ways of Change
Emphasis on speed
More opinion or bias
Less analysis / more superficial
Emphasis on engagement/interactivity with audience
Willingness to let others have a voice
More transparency/ openness/accountability
Ad business tainting journalism
Less original content/more content based
Greater access to news or information
Source: PewResearch, April 2010; American Society of News Editors (ASNE); Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA)
Neither group of news executives, however, finds the growing role of citizens as significantly influencing the fundamentals of the industry. Just 5% of the news executives mentioned citizen engagement as a source of changing news values (with newspaper executives slightly higher at 7% and broadcast executives at 4%).
Nor is the loss of the press's exclusive role as gatekeeper of public knowledge at the forefront of change. Only 3% of newspaper executives and 1% of broadcasters volunteered greater access to news and information as an issue in changing standards.
Executives have a complex and in some ways divided view of technology, seeing it as something that embodies risk and opportunity, the latter of which many feel they were slow to embrace. When we asked news executives to volunteer what they would do differently at their organization in the last 10 years if they could do it over again, the most common response was a greater and earlier investment in new technology.
Among newspaper executives, there was a much stronger inclination to think that allowing content to be free was a major mistake. Fully 30% said they should have charged for content earlier, while only 3% of broadcasters did. Some of that difference may stem from the revenue structures of their legacy platforms. Broadcast stations, in their current form, derive no revenue from subscriptions, while newspapers today derive 20% or more from print circulation.
And finally, when asked "Without significant new funds, revenue streams or partnerships, how long do you think your news organization can remain solvent?" there is doubt in solvency in the long run.
How Long Do You Think Your News Organization Can Remain Solvent?
Length of Solvency
% of All Respondents
Less than 1 year
1 to 2 years
3 to 5 years
6 to 10 years
More than 10 years
Source: PewResearch, April 2010
Though news executives do not tend to see their organizations' solvency at immediate risk, there is little doubt that most of these news operations are smaller. Fully seven out of ten of the news organizations surveyed said they had cut staff, often sizably.
Among newspaper organizations, 92% said they had cut back on news staff in the last three years. Among broadcasters surveyed, the number was 59%. Only 10% of all respondents said that they added news staff in the past three years, and far more 15% of broadcasters said they added news staff, compared to only 2% of newspaper executives.
For additional information about this study, please visit Pew Research here.