In the past decade and a half, the news industry hasn’t just been decimated; it’s been crushed. The rapid invasion of digital news sources—including social media sites, with their addictive allure and second-by-second news coverage—is one of the culprits.
Another big shift is the sharp decrease in advertising dollars: Pew Research reports that newspaper advertising revenue fell from $37.8 billion in 2008 to $14.3 billion in 2018, a 62% decline. And the ad revenues that didn’t vanish got consolidated into the pockets of a very few media conglomerates that swallowed up small-town and big-city news outlets left and right. That means fewer people with more money and more power (and today this often means tech companies not news orgs).
Journalists and reporters have taken a lot of shrapnel in this time. As their newsrooms have shrunk, they’re working harder and longer to keep up with the unstoppable 24/7 news cycle. And that’s if they’re lucky. Unlike the New York Times and Washington Post, both of which have the resources to keep up with the demand, many local newsrooms have shuttered altogether, leaving a yawning chasm for reporting on the city and state issues that affect people’s daily lives (school budgets, housing policy).
Taken together, these assaults to a once-venerated industry have put it on life support. Jay Rosen, Associate Professor of Journalism at New York University, sees the problems, especially those related to the erosion of the relationship between media companies and their subscribers, with unique clarity. And he isn’t ready to pull the plug. “Journalism is in a state of crisis,” he says. “But I don’t think it’s an unsolvable crisis; just something that hasn’t been solved yet. Many believe—and I tend to agree—that newsrooms had become dangerously disconnected from the public they’re supposed to serve. So I’ve spent a lot of my time over the past decade trying to get journalists to mend that disconnect.”