Newspapers maintain the lead in breaking stories

A recent study from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that despite the rise of online news sites, the vast majority of actual new reporting on stories still comes from traditional media, primarily newspapers.

In the news
A recent study from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that despite the rise of online news sites, the vast majority of actual new reporting on stories still comes from traditional media, primarily newspapers. Why does it matter?
The study, based on tracking and analyzing three days of major storylines in the Baltimore area last July, reemphasizes the role newspapers - and to a lesser extent broadcast - still play in setting the news agenda in most markets.

But Pew director Tom Rosenstiel notes that more often than not newspapers now break their stories on their Web site rather than in the next day's print edition. "From all accounts, newspapers are back in the breaking news business, which makes them more competitive because they can post things almost as the news happens," he says. That doesn't change the fact that papers are producing one-third fewer stories than a decade ago due to fewer staffers and pages, he adds.

This rush by traditional media to break stories online is good news for PR, as Rosenstiel suggests the initial versions posted on the newspaper Web site are often much closer to the press release and/or the companies' intended message.

But David Warschawski, founder of Baltimore PR firm Warschawski, notes, "That can be a double-edged sword." He says the increased competition online means that once a PR firm has successfully broken a story in a newspaper, it can spread fairly quickly in the online news echo chamber.

However, the rush to be first with a story can also mean PR pros may not be able to do the reporter education that can provide depth and perspective to coverage.

Three facts:

1. The Pew study "How News Happens" found 95% of the stories containing new information came from traditional media - most of them newspapers

2. Newspapers, TV, and radio produce nearly a third of their stories on new platforms, with half of the papers' stories online rather than in print, the study found

3. Weekday paid print circulation for all US newspapers fell from 62.7 million in 1988 to 48.6 million in 2008, according to the Newspaper Association of America

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