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Pew Report paints grim picture of television news

Traditional ways of accumulating news continue to take a hit in light of technological changes, and the ways outlets such as television have combatted the situation might be making it worse, according to the annual Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism report.

The numbers aren't terribly surprising. For the newspaper industry, employment has dipped 30 percent since 2000 and has dropped below 40,000 for the first time since 1978. Although locally, the Arizona Daily Star, which has dragged its feet replacing the attrition of departing reporters, is said to finally be hiring again.

Newspaper probably fared best in Pew's study. It appears to be at or close to a bottoming out point that largely crippled the print portion of the industry for most of the last decade. Circulation has leveled off for the first time in years, although ad revenue continues to slip, victimized by online advertising options and alternatives to the classifieds due to the "Craigslist" phenomena.

But for television news, on a national and local level, the outlook is even grimmer, and signs suggest television's most treacherous days may still be in the offing. First, Pew's study of national cable news shows a continued move toward what it deems cable talk, but couldn't conclude whether that was due to financial restraints on reporting or because executives believe the editorial style talk model is more in line with what viewers want.

Pew's study also criticized reporters as "megaphones" for political talking points as opposed to using those talking points as the launch pad for further investigating.

Locally, model deterioration has taken place for some time, and the ratings speak to that. The dominant days of double-digit shares are dinosaurs when compared to news organizations trying to get whatever slice of a smaller pie they can muster. And local news continues a demographic trend in the wrong direction. Most telling, survey respondents under 30 years of age who considered themselves local news viewers stood at 42 percent in 2006. That tally plummeted to 28 percent in the updated study.

The answer, according to the local news approach: do less complete stories, and focus more on weather, traffic and sports, which accounts for 40 percent of the broadcast time. That number is of course significantly skewed in Tucson. While weather remains the major component of all Tucson newscasts, the focus on traffic is only emphasized in morning broadcasts, and sports is generally ostracized to that filler thing before the anchors give us their witty closing banter.

The study did not focus specifically on two issues that will likely continue to act as major contributors to TV news struggles: exclusive access to breaking information and the DVR.

Newspaper has the capital to remain viable, even as it's been forced to dramatically update its archaic print model. The Daily Star still employs more reporting staff than any other news outlet in the market. Even as the print industry has taken a hit, and even as papers have shut down, in most markets that reporting number advantage is still in play. That allowed newspaper to counter television's ability to report a story faster. If you wanted more depth, you'd still check out the paper the following morning. Not to mention, most of the leads generated in the course of a television news broadcast are still lifted by stories first covered in newspaper.

Now, however, there are a variety of online possibilities to get updated information, and it's rare in a market of Tucson's size to see a breaking story that commands the exclusive attention of viewers.

But far more significant is the advent of the DVR. Local news would often get important boosts from network lead-in programming, but as less people watch television live, and simply record a program to view on their schedule, the local news broadcast won't even be a part of the equation.

The results of this trend are already apparent. KVOA TV 4 has implemented a multi-media journalist model, whereby reporters record and edit their own stories. KMSB TV 11 jettisoned its entire operation and paid KOLD TV 13 to produce newscasts for them.

Local news still brings in revenue, but as ratings dwindle it gets more difficult for sales staffs to convince advertisers of the benefits.


Del Rosario hired by KGUN

Simone Del Rosario is taking her chances in the local TV news landscape. She was hired on last month in the capacity of video journalist. Del Rosario arrives in Tucson with a Master of Science in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from New Mexico State University. Del Rosario spent two months as Social Video Reporter for the Washington Post, and three months as a bureau reporter in New Delhi, India as a member of Russia's RT Network. 


Want a job at Clear Channel?

After its latest upheaval, Clear Channel is not only in the market for a new Operations Manager following the departure of Chris Kelly, but for on-air talent for country station KNST 97.1 FM. That's the station Clear Channel flipped last month, opting to pull the plug on what appeared to be a successful simulcast of its news/talk format in favor of a country music format that will attempt to compete with KIIM 99.5 FM, the top-rated station in the market.


KVOI adds 'Frontlines of Freedom' to lineup

Conservative talker KVOI 1030 AM is broadcasting Frontlines of Freedom Sundays from 9 to 11 p.m. The show is produced by Josh Leng, who used to act as Program Director for KNST 790 AM.

"Frontlines of Freedom is a program that draws an audience anywhere, but especially in military towns and those with high veteran populations, and Tucson has both," said Leng. "We look forward to having Frontlines on 1030 KVOI in Tucson, a city I love and know very well."

Hosted by West Point grad and 22-year Army veteran Lt. Col. Denny Gillem, Frontlines of Freedom, not surprisingly, focuses on issues pertaining to past and present members of military service.

More by John Schuster

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