The State of the Industry

Like many in the broadcast and media world, I’ve been troubled at the somewhat rapid changes by media owners in order for their TV stations and publications to survive.

What’s even more troubling is the excuse that the current recession is the cause of less paid readers and viewers. This isn’t the case.

For years, television news (both national and local broadcasts) have suffered erosion for many reasons. Yes, there are more channels on cable and satellite. And, we know that younger consumers do not watch or read as much as more mature consumers.

While we are moving more to the Internet and to our smart phones for news, information and recreation, the truth is, the quality of television news and the printed media, has been on the decline for years.

Local news, for example, continues to champion fires, traffic accidents, murders, projecting these stories in a dramatic way with glitzy graphics, sound effects and formats that have become predictable to even the casual viewer. The fact is, with rare occasion, local television news has failed to reach the public with quality, while continuing to accentuate style. It’s the age old debate of quality versus quantity.

The daily paper, the weekly magazine and less frequently published periodicals fell into that trap, as well.

The daily is thinner and not because of the loss of ads. One to two inches of the papers have been cut. Every major paper from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, along with truly local newspapers like the Dallas Morning News, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix) and hundreds of others have chopped the heart out of the papers.

For years, with some exception, the majority of the papers have filled their columns with Associated Press wire copy. In the days before the 24/7 cable news talk channels and the Internet, that would have sufficed. Most papers cannot afford to have correspondents in international and national locales.

Network news is effectively using the video services of the Associated Press and Reuters with voice-overs from their one reporter in London. The networks will air lift a reporter in to a trouble spot and then most of their reporting is commentary.

This didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years for the bean counters to look at ways to cut the costs, assuming that consumers will come back.

I suspect we will continue to read about more newspapers folding, or shifting most, if not all of their content to the web. The Christian Science Monitor, a niche daily, but an important one with quality in its pages, was the first. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press will cease home delivery three days a week and shifting their content onto the web.

Now, it’s a matter of survival. The sense of urgency to bring back quality to television news and the newspapers seems to have gone.

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