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The Nation

Media Study Finds Few Bright Spots to Report

March 15, 2004|From the Chicago Tribune

The audience for most news media outlets is either shrinking or stagnant, according to a study released today by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study examined newspaper, television, magazine, radio and Internet news industries, and found that only online journalism and ethnic or alternative sources of news, such as Spanish-language newspapers, are seeing growth.

"We're in a period of change and dislocation," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. The study was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The study found that English-language newspaper circulation has declined 11% since 1990 and network evening newsratings are down 34% over the last decade. Despite major news events such as the war in Iraq, the median cable news audience has not grown since 2001.

The study's few bright spots are the growth in morning network newscasts, which attracted 1 million more viewers in November 2003 than a decade ago; online news sites, which draw a minimum of 80 million users; and Spanish-language newspapers, which have more than tripled their circulation, to 1.7 million, since 1990.

The study also found that, overall, trust in news sources is down. The percentage of people who believe what they read in newspapers has declined from 80% in 1985 to 59% in 2003, and the percentage who give high grades in credibility to network news dropped from 74% in 1996 to 65% in 2002.

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