Pew 'State of the Media' Study Bemoans Weakening 'Filter,' 'Shrinking Reporting Power,' While Press Arbitrarily Wastes Resources

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its 2013 pity party -- er, annual report -- on the State of the News Media (home page; full overview).

Two things struck me in my initial scan-through: First, the whining about newsroom cutbacks, which are largely related to pervasive bias and misplaced priorities; second, the characterization of newsmakers' improved ability to take their cases directly to the public "without any filter by the traditional media" as some kind of automatically negative trend.


Here's a bit of what Pew says about newsroom cutbacks:

Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978.

... This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And findings from our new public opinion survey released in this report reveal that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.

I'd be a lot more impressed with the problems cited if I didn't still see a lot of columnists at establishment press newspapers pulling down outsized salaries for one or two columns per week of wholly predictable tripe reflecting little or no underlying research.

I'd also be a lot more worried about the alleged lack of resources if I didn't see horrendous misallocations of time and talent, including but certainly not limited to the following examples.

A Washington Post reporter devoted 5,400 words and what appears to have been at least 100 hours of collective time to a story about Mitt Romney's high school years, featuring an obsession over an allegedly forced hair-cutting incident.

Eleven Associated Press reporters were assigned to "fact check" Sarah Palin's book "Going Rogue" in 2009.

The New York Times published a 3,000-word item intimating that a lobbyist had a romantic relationship with Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain. affair. The lobbyist sued the Times. The suit was settled out of court.

Here's some of what Pew notes about organizations going around the "filter":

At the same time, newsmakers and others with information they want to put into the public arena have become more adept at using digital technology and social media to do so on their own, without any filter by the traditional media. They are also seeing more success in getting their message into the traditional media narrative.

So far, this trend has emerged most clearly in the political sphere, particularly with the biggest story of 2012—the presidential election. A Pew Research Center analysis revealed that campaign reporters were acting primarily as megaphones, rather than as investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans. That meant more direct relaying of assertions made by the campaigns and less reporting by journalists to interpret and contextualize them ...

Geez, what I saw was "direct relaying of assertions" by Barack Obama and Democrats and "fact checkers" evaluating their obviously false statements as true, accompanied by heavy filtering up to and including outright lying about the Romney campaign, to the point of arguably rigging the election.

And since when does the press have a preemptive role as the nation's filter?

What's really happening in regard to the Obama administration is that the press whines about Team Obama's ability to take its case directly to its base and manage news relating to it (e.g., "Obama the Puppet Master"), cries "we're helpless," and has from all appearances virtually stopped doing any work at all beyond stenography. Meanwhile, it has redirected a disporportionate share of those thinly stretched resources to relentlessly disparaging Republican and conservative ideas, spokespersons, politicians, and candidates.

Sorry, guys and gals. You're not going to get any sympathy from me. The establishment press contraction continues because, as MRC's Brent Bozell and dozens of conservative leaders and pundits wrote in an open letter in September 2012, "You have betrayed their (the public's) trust."

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.