Westin at Media Institute: ABC Cuts Were Symptom of Deeply Troubled News Industry

Said he was not against aggregation, but that there needed to be a business model that supported investing in reporting
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Former ABC News President David Westin says that
by the time he left at the end of 2010, he had had to cut 25% of that
organization "to ensure its ongoing financial health."

That
came in a speech to the Media Institute in Washington Wednesday, according to
a copy of his prepared text. Westin said that budget cutting was "about
the most difficult thing" he had had to do in his professional life.

Westin,
who now heads online news registry and rights clearinghouse, NewsRight, said he
was not cutting at the behest of "some corporate overseer trying to
extract greater profits from a strong and growing business." Instead, he
said, it was because of a deeply troubled news business.

Westin
said that all the new digital news sources do not equate to a golden age of
news. "[T]hat's because for the most part all the growth has been in the
distribution of news -- not in investment in the news being distributed,"
he said. "Even as there are more and more outlets for news on the
Internet, over the past decade we've seen a steady decline in the investment
being made in reporters who are paid to spend their professional lives learning
the craft," he said.

Westin
said he was not against aggregation, but that there needed to be a business
model that supported investing in reporting. "[I]f traditional news
providers are always competing with companies that are using some of their own
content -- and getting it for free -- then it will be difficult to restore true
health to the news industry, no matter what other improvements they make in
their businesses," he said.

It
is not the first time Westin has taken that message to a Media Institute
audience. Back in 2009, in a keynote speech at the institute's annual awards
banquet, Westin told the audience that in some ways ABC News' biggest
competition was ABC News. "Each of us has ended up competing against even
ourselves," he said at the time. "Aggregators and search engines
patrol the Internet, looking for bits and pieces of our reporting to post in
short form on their sites. Some of the small ones simply take our reporting and
reproduce it - at least until they're discovered and forced to take it down."

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