News executives have major concerns about any government or
public interest group funding of news operations, and a majority of broadcast
news execs think journalism is going in the wrong direction.
Those are among the key findings from a just-released PEW Research
Center/Project For Excellence in Journalism study.
The study, conducted in conjunction with the American
Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Radio-Television Digital News
Association (RTDNA), found that 75% of news execs surveyed have "serious
reservations" about government subsidies, and even more (78%) have
"significant resistance" to funding from interest groups. About 50%
have problems with government tax credits, and a third have doubts about
accepting private donations.
The FCC is currently conducting an inquiry into the future
of journalism and public discourse in the digital age, including what, if
anything, the government should do to help traditional media struggling with
the cyclical challenge of a down economy and the longer-term challenge of a
digital, multiplatform world.
The study also found that broadcast news executives are more
pessimistic about the future of journalism than their counterparts at
newspapers. Almost two-thirds of broadcast execs said they thought their
profession was "headed in the wrong direction," vs. only about half
of newspaper editors [the question was: "Thinking about journalism overall in
today, do you think it is generally going in the right direction or the wrong
When asked to get specific, most appeared worried about
loosening standards (67% of broadcasters polled), including declining accuracy
and the related issues of un-sourced reporting and a decrease in fact-checking.
But they weren't blaming that accuracy-lite designation on the rise of citizen
journalists. Only 5% of news execs mentioned them as a source of changing
They also did not bemoan the loss of major media's
gatekeeper function as a culprit. Only 1% of broadcasters said greater access
to info was at issue with the change in journalistic standards.
More than two-thirds of broadcasters (67%) said that the
Internet has loosened standards. Sixty-two
percent of newspaper execs agreed.
Whatever the net's impact, the execs opined that their
companies did not come up with strategic plans to deal with it.
"[I wish we had] hired more kids earlier in the game and
trained them in the old values. Then turned them loose to use the new
technology to help distribute the product," said one broadcast respondent. "I
think we probably let the glitzy new tools distract us from the basic job of
running a truly professional newsroom."
Among some of the more interesting findings are that the
execs don't see the much-vaunted game-changing qualities of the Internet in
their business. Only 1% of broadcasters said that they thought one of the ways
the net had changed journalism's fundamental values was to make it more
transparent, accountable and open, all buzz-phrases of 'net fans; and only 4%
of broadcasters said it increased the "willingness to let other have a
The study was conducted between December 2009 and January
2010 of a total of 353 execs from both RTDNA and ASNE, which was a 36% response
rate from ASNE and a 24% response rate from RTDNA.
The full study is available here: http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/child.