Tuesday 25 May 2004

More Journalists Dismayed With Profession

More than half of all national journalists (51%) and almost as many local journalists (46%) believe that their profession is off the mark and headed down the wrong path, according to a comprehensive study released today by The Pew Research Center, The Project for Excellence in Journalism and The Committee of Concerned Journalists. The study surveyed 547 national and local journalists from print, online and broadcast media.

Many journalists believe that increased financial pressure is "seriously hurting" the quality of news coverage -- 66% of national newspeople and 57% of local journalists see it this way. That percentage is climbing when compared to past surveys. In 1995, for example, 41% of national and 33% of local journalists expressed this view.

Not surprisingly, those national and local journalists -- about 75% -- who have witnessed newsroom cuts firsthand are among the most worried about the effects of bottom-line pressures, the study said.

In an essay accompanying the study, Bill Kovach of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, and Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, state that journalists feel that "more than ever the economic behavior of their companies is eroding the quality of journalism. In particular, they think that business pressures are making the news they produce thinner and shallower. And they report more cases of advertisers and owners breaching the independence of the newsroom."

Still, opinions vary about the profession depending on position. Within national organizations, 57% of news executives think the profession is going the right way whereas only 39% of reporters think that's the case.

While many journalists are unhappy with what they perceive as a turn for the worse, the study found no evidence that the USA Today and The New York Times scandals had any impact on their views. "The number of journalists who cite 'ethics and standards' as the biggest problem facing journalism has not grown since 1999," the study said. "In fact, just 5% of national journalists and 6% of local journalists cite ethics or a lack of standards as the biggest problem in journalism, about half as many as in the 1999 survey." And it found that journalists think that plagiarism is no more rampant now than it was in the past.

That said, the study found that credibility was mentioned more than any other concern, and more so with print journalists. Thirty-nine percent of journalists working at national newspapers, magazines and wire services say credibility with the public is the biggest problem facing the industry -- versus 15% of national broadcast journalists. It's echoed at the local level too: 33% of print journalists versus 12% of broadcast journalists.

The concern over credibility swings wildly across age groups. Only 10% of those journalists under 35 think it's the biggest issue the profession is facing while 26% of those 35-54 think it's a concern, and 33% for those 55 and over.

Full story...