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This Week in PubHub: Journalism/Media: The State of the News Media

August 04, 2011

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center's online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her previous post, she looked at four reports that examine the challenges of implementing human rights protections and rights-based interventions.)

With ad revenues and circulation numbers falling, newsroom headcounts shrinking, and social media and the blogosphere commanding a growing share of reader eyeballs, news executives are doing a lot of hand-wringing and soul-searching these days. So where do things stand midway through 2011? This week in PubHub we're featuring four reports that look at the recent past and future prospects of journalism and the news media.

According to The State of the News Media 2011 (525 pages, HTML), the Project for Excellence in Journalism's annual assessment of industry trends, all major sectors of the news media except newspapers saw revenues begin to recover in 2010. Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the report also points out that online advertising revenue in 2010 is expected to surpass print advertising revenue for the first time, and that 47 percent of Americans now use a mobile device to consume news. As new platforms are introduced, however, the greatest challenge for news providers, the report suggests, may lie in the layers of technological complexity created between content providers and the public -- and the lack of control over audience data.

Is the future of serious journalism necessarily a not-for-profit proposition? Or can good journalism still be good business in the twenty-first century? Those are some of the questions raised in A Way Forward: Solving the Challenges of the News Frontier (39 pages, PDF), a report based on a February 2010 conference sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Paley Center for Media at which faculty and students from twelve leading journalism schools discussed the impact of efforts such as the Carnegie-Knight Initiative as well as examples of enterprising nonprofit operations like Politico. The good news (according to the report)? By developing their multimedia skills, honing their entrepreneurial instincts, and building their personal brands, the journalistic stars of tomorrow can indeed connect to audiences and tap into revenue streams that will support their efforts.

Taking the Temperature: The Future of Global Health Journalism (32 pages, PDF), a report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, considers how recent financial constraints on the news media, advocacy groups' use of social media, and other trends have affected global health news coverage. Among other things, the report argues that while mainstream media tend not to focus on policy-angle coverage of global health issues, specialized publications such as online-only news outlets and journals are becoming a major source of global health journalism. Even as outside funding makes possible continued coverage of global health issues in the mainstream, specialized, and public media, however, questions of sustainability and journalistic independence loom large.

What about government funding for public broadcasting? With such funding frequently held hostage to political debate, the U.S. public media system increasingly is underfunded compared with systems in other developed democracies, a recent report from the Free Press argues. The report, Public Media and Political Independence: Lessons for the Future of Journalism From Around the World (88 pages, PDF), describes efforts in fourteen countries to protect the autonomy of public media through multiyear funding, oversight organizations linked to audiences, and "buffer" agencies or boards designed to limit the influence of politics on the system. Funded by the Foundation to Promote Open Society, the report also highlights the viability and vitality of the public service model in the digital age and hints at ways the model can be strengthened in the U.S.

How has your relationship to news and the news media changed? Do you still subscribe to a print newspaper? Are you getting more of your news online or via mobile platforms? Has your news consumption become more ecumenical or more parochial? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

And don't forget to visit PubHub, where you can browse more than a hundred and fifty reports about journalism and media.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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