US newspapers turn their back on the world

The drastic cutbacks in staff at American newspapers is beginning to have a noticeable effect. A new survey of more than 250 newspapers shows that almost two thirds of all American papers are publishing much less foreign news than they did just three years ago and even national news is getting less play.

The study was conducted by the Pew Research Centre, assisted by a former foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Tyler Marshall. The findings reflect the current woes of the industry, falling revenue, shrinking pages and declining circulation.

Sixty four per cent of the papers surveyed reported cutting the space given to foreign news. Only ten per cent considered foreign news “very essential”.

This is at a time when the US is involved in two wars overseas, the economy which is now more global is under stress and the dependence on foreign oil is threatening to become a crisis. One official at Pew said he found this most disconcerting.

Almost half the papers surveyed said they had drastically cut back on the number of journalists they assign to foreign news. Fewer papers are sending reporters abroad. At the same time three fifths of the papers surveyed admitted they were devoting less space to news of all kinds.

National news for example has in many papers suffered almost a 60 per cent cutback. Business coverage has also been reduced by a third of the papers. Only “local news” has benefited.

Some 59 per cent of the papers editors said they have had to drastically downsize their staff over the past three years – and it still continues. Many editors said they worry that journalistic standards may decline substantially as many experienced people leave the business.

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