The number of journalists working at U.S. newspapers today is at the lowest point since the American Society of News Editors began its annual newsroom census in 1978.
Newspapers now employ 40,600 editors and reporters vs. a peak of 56,900 in the pre-Internet year of 1990, according to the census released today. Thus, newsroom headcount has fallen by 28.6% from its modern-day high. [See the year-by-year table.]
When an industry charged with holding government accountable — government at all levels, from village council to the presidency — loses about 29 percent of the sheriffs on the beat, we have to wonder: Who’s minding the watchdog store? Fewer reporters with less experience are asking fewer questions about government and corporate decision making (and decision makers). That means the public has less credible information at its disposal to make wiser political and consumer decisions.
Yet all’s good, say newspaper execs. We’re leaner and meaner and still on the job. So, we should think, What, me worry?
But how can management claims of better reporting be true with such high losses in the newsroom? Continue reading →