This is the very subject that much of the research for my master’s degree centered on: the erosion of journalism to economic pressures. It’s from a research report conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The following news blurb is from the Atlantic, June 2004 issue, titled The News About the News.
“Today NBC Nightly News is the highest rated of the network evening-news programs, yet its Nielsen ratings are 11 percent lower than they were in 1994, when it occupied the No. 3 position. Collectively the networks have seen their nightly-news ratings decline by 34 percent over the past decade; local TV news is losing audience just as rapidly; and the cable-TV audience stopped growing in 2001. All this is part of an “epochal transformation” in journalism, according to a lengthy “State of the News Media” survey conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The report argues that budget cuts have left TV news teams trimmer and consequently less thorough, often leading to one-sided reporting. Even as journalistic quality declines, however, the television-news business remains wildly profitable: in 2003 the three major nightly newscasts generated half a billion dollars in revenue for the networks, and CNN earned $351 million. Meanwhile, local news delivered 40 percent of station revenues even though it made up only 16 percent of programming.”
It’s an interesting subject for debate. Much is at stake, which I argue in my thesis. What do you believe this means for democracy, if anything at all? It’s an election year. On what do we base our vote if we are seemingly less informed of the issues? Or are we getting our information from other sources? (Such as well-informed blogs: I had to say it!) Does the erosion of mass media mean nothing more than watered down journalism shooting for the lowest common denominator doesn’t deserve an audience after all?