Monday, March 17, 2008

Narrowing News and Drive-By Journalism

Two stories hogged the attention of Americans in 2007 with "reverse trajectories," at first the war in Iraq, which declined in interest as the '08 Presidential elections took over the spotlight.

That's a main conclusion of the State of the News Media 2008 report, just released by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which also cites "markedly short attention span" stories such as the Virginia Tech massacre, the Minneapolis bridge collapse and the California wildfires, one-week wonders that drew intense coverage and suddenly faded from sight.

Subjects least covered last year included urban sprawl, the legal and court system, religion, transportation, education, and race, gender and sexual identity issues, none of which attracted more than 1% of coverage over all.

"This kind of news," the report says, "requires more continuous attention to be able to understand and explain incremental changes along the way or to know when the small changes have added up to something more comprehensive-- specialists, beats, sentinels assigned to watch. Many news organizations have cut back on staff devoted to specific beats like these.

"Also, news that breaks, such as car crashes or explosions, generates more immediate news appeal, often involving strong visuals or attention-grabbing headlines."

Economic pressures dominate the worries of journalists, rather than the issues of media credibility and the quality of news coverage.

More people get their news online than ever before, as media sites steer readers away from their own content and link to outside sources.

According to the report, "Web sites run by citizen journalists are multiplying--rapidly approaching 1,500 heading into 2008--offering stories, blogs and videos. And that trend is considered a healthy one by professional journalists, who call on citizens more frequently to inform their reporting."

Hybrid journalism is evolving rapidly, but questions about whether Americans who know more make up a public that understands more still have far from clear answers.

1 comment:

GiromiDe said...

Journalism appears to be adopting the same model as Hollywood. Bombard the market with the product -- some news story -- reap the benefits, then move on to the next product.

Sad. I'd love to read about the things that received 1% interest, especially urban sprawl, which is shaping American culture more than anyone realizes.