The latest report on the state of local TV news by the well-respected non-partisan Pew Research Center issues this warning: “With younger people tuning out local newscasts, there is growing concern that local TV news may be facing some of the financial challenges that have already battered the newspaper industry. And even as local TV newscasts seem to be doubling down on sports, traffic and weather, there are an ever increasing number of digital sources outside of television that provide that kind of information on demand.”
As a story about the Pew report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel puts it, "Local television stations are offering more newscasts but less news, according to a survey of stations in four cities, including Milwaukee."
The article also notes, "According to the Pew report, 31% of viewers surveyed say they deserted a news outlet because it ‘no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.’ And the primary concern of people who gave up on an outlet cited ‘quality.’ "
The Journal Sentinel story says that the "Pew Research Center ‘State of the News Media’ report released Monday, March 18, 2013, concluded that an increase in the number of local TV newscasts means that ‘editorial resources are being stretched thinner,’ and that stations are changing the types of stories they are reporting to compensate. And it drew a direct correlation between changes ‘on the content side’ to declining advertising revenue."
One positive note in the Pew study is is that TV remains the top source of news for consumers.
The Journal Sentinel article adds, "In a segment of the Pew report entitled ‘Shrinking Pains,’ it was noted that individual story lengths have shortened – only 20% exceeded one minute – and that time spent on edited packages decreased also 20%. The average edited package was 75 seconds long, the average live report was 44 seconds, and the average news anchor voice-over was 25 seconds.
"Overall, the report concluded, that ‘in-depth enterprising reporting is on the downswing.’ The result – that 40% of local TV news time is consumed by sports, traffic and weather – will be no surprise to viewers in Milwaukee who may feel inundated with such coverage. These elements saw a 25% increase since a 2005 survey."
The article explained that "The survey sampled 24 news broadcasts, morning and evening, 1,055 stories and more than 15 hours of programming.
"Besides Milwaukee, the [local] markets sampled were Pittsburgh, Houston and Bend, Ore. The four cities represent various sized markets, said Amy Mitchell, an author of the report and acting director of the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism."
Besides the summary article in the Journal Sentinel, we urge you to read both the entire Pew report on local TV news — to do that, please click on the link in the first sentence of this item, above — and the Pew Center’s full report on the state of news in general in 2013, which can be found if you click here.