PEJ’s 2010 State of Media Report: Future of Embattled “Legacy Media” Better Than Most Expect

Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’ 2010 State of the Media contained few surprises but the unexpected is noteworthy.

As a reporter interested in covering foreign affairs, any growth in the coverage of international relations makes my day better for one simple reason: It means my dream job won’t be a pipe dream as long as foreign coverage continues its upswing after I graduate.

According the latest PEJ report, coverage of U.S. foreign relations increased by 5 percent – from 2008’s 6 percent to 11 percent in 2009.

Last year, numerous international events had direct links to U.S. foreign policy. One of the incidents that caught my attention the most was the capture of two Current TV journalists were captured in North Korea and later pardoned. The case definitely taught me a lesson to remember: Don’t wade in the water too close hermit kingdom’s border because the consequence could be dire.

Besides the rise in foreign news in the American media, articles and broadcasts about the environment was the sixteenth most reported stories of the year – out of 26 other news story topics. I was surprised to learn that “green” news received that much coverage.

Blogging is giving way to mobile-platforms. (Jorge Quinteros/FlickR/Creative Common)

But then I remembered that most covered green story was  “Climategate” and the fallout that called into question the global warming phenomenon. It could also be argued that this increased media scrutiny was a setback to the global green movement. This internationally-reported fiasco galvanized “climate skeptics” who capitalized on it to spread their views to the public.

On the flip-side of unexpected news coverage upswings, there were losers who were neglected due to the limited space of broadcasts, etc. Education and immigration were among the most notable issues neglected last year.

Next year’s PEJ report should show the reversal of both stories. Interest in the latter issue has been rekindled by Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the failed passage of the DREAM Act, and the idiocy of “anchor babies.”

Although the report didn’t take an alarming tone, it did contain information that would disappoint those (e.g. “….just me and my shadow”) interested in “shoe-leathering” (long-form) reporting:

  • Reportorial news is getting smaller. Punditry-led, commentary news dominates it now, and it plays a major role in agenda-setting – and its influence will continue to grow.
  • Fox News continues to dominate its cable news rivals. Blerg.
  • PBS News Coverage continues to outpace its rival in covering overseas happenings.

However, popular forms of new media are falling to the wayside such as blogging.  Mobile-format news and social networking sites like Twitter are becoming more common sources for news than personal blogs. And without the “legacy” (traditional) media, the new media wouldn’t have any sources of their information since 67 percent of the top news sites are tied to traditional print media (namely NYT & WaPo). So, the “journalism is dead” crowd has been proven wrong and they can call off the funeral dirge that will never get played. News junkies like me would never allow it and the “information age” increases the importance of journalists.

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