With the curtain about to go up on the Television Critics Association press tour at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif., the secondary storyline at the semiannual gathering of television executives and stars will be the attendance figures for a press corps vulnerable to the financial difficulties that are buffeting all media organizations.
As travel budgets are slashed and the ranks of critics at traditional news outlets like newspapers and magazines have been thinned by layoffs and buyouts, attendance for the traveling press is projected to be down 20%-30% year-to-year, according to Dave Walker, TCA president and longtime television critic at the New Orleans Times-Picayune. But overall attendance at the tour is expected to be steady, with Los Angeles-based media—mainly bloggers and online-only journalists—making up for the downturn.
There are 148 TCA members registered to attend some or all of the July 28-Aug. 8 tour, the same number as last summer. (That figure does not count non-TCA reporters credentialed by networks.) The number of journalists staying at the hotel is projected to peak at 80, compared to 110 last summer.
The changing face of TCA
Online-only reporters account for 23% of total membership, while the number of members who work primarily for newspapers is down 12%, to about 40% of the group. “That fact that almost a quarter of the group is online-only, from zero a few years ago, that's a pretty significant shift,” Walker says.
The vast majority of television critics still working at traditional media companies are multi-tasking to compete in a wired world. They cover the tour in print but also online via blogs, Twitter and Web video, fundamentally changing the way the event is covered.
“Every good quote is on the street by the end of the session,” Walker says. “So I would argue that the people who are there are reaching more people than a larger group would have five years ago.”