Is the quality of American news declining?

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, the American news industry may be failing to meet the needs of the modern audience.

The study published by the Pew Research Center outlined the problems in the industry; such as substantial job cuts in newspaper offices and fewer reports on hard news stories.

In response to the report, several journalists published their views on current state of the news. Paul Raeburn at Huffington Post and Matthew Yglesias at Slate both argued that the American news industry is in better condition than ever before.

They suggest the advancement of the internet has made it possible for vast amounts of information to be available for journalists to produce content quickly.

The truth about trust

photoUnfortunately, I have to disagree with the argument that the availability of information has improved the state of our media.

The data from the Pew Research Center clearly shows that the number of jobs in newspapers has declined by 30 percent, which means the number of cubicles filled with journalists is at the same low level it was at in 1978.

In an age of increasing information and staff reduction, it’s evident that more pressure is being put on journalists to constantly churn out news information.

But this is only one example in a long list of reasons why the quality of American journalism is declining.

What I’d like to focus on is that this isn’t a new argument. Many different academic and industry voices have suggested that the quality of American news is declining. They were just using different names for the same point.

For example, take a look at the graph (above) from Gallup. It shows the massive decline in American trust of the media since the 1970’s. An updated graph from the same poll (below) shows an even higher number of people that don’t trust the mainstream media.

photo (1)

Trust in the media is especially low on presidential election years. When the media whips into a frenzy and attempts to provide coverage of the most expensive publicity campaign in the world.

The point is that “declining trust in the media” and “decreasing standards” aren’t two separate issues. They are both indications that the American news industry is in the same boat, and perhaps even worse off, than that of the global news industry.

News needs a push

Pew Center of Research and Gallup are both examples of how the news industry – and the perception of the news industry – is changing in the digital age.

The problem that has not been addressed by the industry is: How do we make news relevant and challenging again?

As an American journalist studying with contemporaries from all over the world, I receive criticism for writing too often on press releases, wire copy and entertainment stories.

As a suggestion, what we need to do as an industry is take a step back from the barrage of online information and find the issues that matter to the people.

Until then, we’ll have to face the fact that American news is losing touch with its audience – and start getting more comfortable with the job cuts.


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