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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Newsroom staffing hits 34-year low

The number of journalists working at U.S. newspapers today is at the lowest point since the American Society of News Editors began its annual newsroom census in 1978.

Newspapers now employ 40,600 editors and reporters vs. a peak of 56,900 in the pre-Internet year of 1990, according to the census released today. Thus, newsroom headcount has fallen by 28.6% from its modern-day high.

As illustrated below, the most precipitous drop in staffing occurred in the depths of the recession between 2008 and 2010.

The ASNE census was started when the industry became concerned about addressing the lack of minority staffing in newsrooms in the late 1970s.

Editors and publishers reasoned, properly, that greater diversity in newsrooms would improve the quality and quantity of reporting about all segments of society.

The first survey in 1978 discovered that members of minority groups held only 3.6% of newsroom jobs. In 2012, the number is a more respectable 12.3% of positions.

While this statistic represents a considerable improvement over the years, the figure is below the peak minority employment of 13.5% achieved in 2008.

Footnote: The ASNE formerly was known as the American Society of Newspaper Editors but decided to modernize its image a few years ago by taking the P-word out of its name.


9 comments:

  1. Nice graphic but Alan, is this really news? Let's see -- ads are at an all-time low, circ is falling and readership is down, so wouldn't it make sense if industry employment also fell? Automation has allowed writers to be printers, bloggers, tweeters, reporters, editors, photographers and videographers. Not a shocker.

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  2. I have a few concerns about the chart. By not using a zero baseline, you're visually misleading your readers (even if unintentionally). Newsroom staffing is down from 1990, but the decline is not nearly as sharp as your chart implies. Using a zero baseline would have still reinforced the point of your post while maintaining an accurate visual metaphor. Additionally, the chart shows newsroom staffing by year (not cutscuts would be best charted as bars, showing change from the preceding year or cumulative change from a starting point), and the change from 1990 to 2011 is 29 percent, not 28 percent (28.6 percent rounds up).

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  3. Alan, I have to agree with John Arthur, an unfortunate natural progression.
    I give you credit for keeping the candle aglow, this has been one prolonged sickness.
    Having spent my entire 35+ year career in media media planning/placement I continue to be amazed at how supposedly smart businessman could allow an entire industry to dissolve before our eyes. No need to rehash how digitization in the late 1990's might have positively changed the business dynamics of this industry, the time to grieve is long gone.

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  4. Some of the best reporting and stories happened long before 1978, so having numbers similar to that is OK. Computers make us much faster, cell phones add ease to our jobs, circulation is down about 20-30% in that same time, ad count and space is down much more than that, several large and small newspapers no longer exist and we have acces to bloggers and many citizen journalist to help fill in the holes.

    The biggest problem isn't the number of newsroom staff, it is how we choose to utilize the resources we have. For some reason we still think that more pages full of mindless garbage is still the best approach. Maybe we need to eliminate a few beats and concentrate on those areas our readers will read, purchase and demand.

    The free market is speaking, are we listening?

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  5. I got my first newspaper job in 1986 and left the business in 2007. Looks like my career coincided almost precisely with the golden age.

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  6. All valid comments, I think John Newby said it best - "are newsrooms listening to the market?"

    In ways our major daily is listening - but to whom and to what intent? I visit the website and it's the mindless garbage, junk polls and celebrity news that gets the most play; probably b/c that's what's getting the most clicks.

    Bloggers and the digital revolution have grown and earned the attention of readers not by following the crowd, but by driving trends and creating an Internet full of content that people want. As MrMediaPro said, they missed the digital revolution - and lost.

    As a PR pro, I look at these numbers and know that when I practice media relations it's that much more important I keep current on what reporters are writing, who their audience is, do my best to provide valuable news. FWIW.

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  7. Do we know if these figures include online publications, like Salon, in their counting of "newsroom jobs"? Just wondering if some of those jobs have gone online.

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  8. I have a different take in this conversation. It is my opinion that nature and business both abhor a vacuum. How many “journalists” are employed elsewhere? Is journalism only creditable on paper? News breaks everywhere, every day by one venue or another. Some of the brightest minds today ate tweeting news of great value. Some writers/ journalists are being paid elsewhere. I guess my reaction to the chart as accurate as it may be is that it doesn’t really matter. I don’t believe that society will crumble, nor do I believe our kids will be uninformed or worse yet stupid. It is nothing more or less than the continuation of the new industrial revolution.

    The moving finger writes, and having written moves on. Nor all thy piety nor all thy wit, can cancel half a line of it.

    BoSacks
    -30-

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  9. Newspapers are still by far the biggest source of original content. I am talking about real 'news' not opinion or rewritten press releases.
    So the drop in staff has resulted in less 'real news'. The consumer doesn't know what news he isn't getting however. He is just more ignorant.

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