At GetReligion, Sarah Pulliam Bailey accurately observes one aspect of the reality of 21st-century newspapers, but seems bewildered by how to explain it. This is just staggeringly silly for a website that regards itself as performing media criticism:
We’re also noticing a possible disappearance of the philanthropy beat where a reporter focuses specifically in that area.
… One thing is becoming clearer: newspapers seem less eager to assign reporters to such specific beats.
“Newspapers seem less eager to assign reporters to such specific beats”?
How can anyone claim to be performing media criticism without being aware that newspapers don’t have enough reporters anymore.
A beat reporter for philanthropy? What universe are you living in if you imagine that’s anything more than a pipe-dream luxury for a 21st-century American newsroom?
This isn’t a secret. Here’s Alan Mutter presenting the latest figures last month in a post titled “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 percent from its modern-day high.
Perhaps we don’t need those nearly 57,000 reporters we had in 1990. Newspaper executives tell us the same thing each time they whack newsroom staffing through layoffs or “buyouts.” Don’t worry, they say: The news product won’t be compromised.
… Newsroom ranks are thinner. Reporters are less experienced.
People who care about the newspaper business have been screaming about this for years, but apparently the media critics at GetReligion haven’t been listening.
Nor can they apparently be bothered even to glance at the reality of the industry they exist to critique. Far easier just to assume that the lack of coverage for a particular beat somehow confirms GetReligion’s main thesis of media incomprehension of and bias against religion.
“More With Less” was the title of the first episode of Season 5 of The Wire. The name comes from the mantra of the corporate beancounters now busily running America’s newspapers into the ground. “We’ll get leaner and meaner,” the beancounters say. “We’ll do more with less.”
Everyone knows that’s a crock. Newsrooms are doing less with less. A lot less with a lot less.
The editors and reporters all know it. Their readers certainly know it. Even the beancounters themselves know it.
But the news seems not yet to have reached the media critics at GetReligion.