July 21, 2008

The Changing Newsroom

Staff Cutbacks

There is a little doubt that American newspapers are cutting back.

Well over half (59%) of the 259 newspapers participating in the survey have reduced full-time newsroom staff over the past three years, mainly because of financial pressures. Roughly the same number (61%) also reported a decrease in their overall newshole—the physical space in the paper available for stories.

The hammer has hit newspapers with circulations of over 100,000 significantly harder than those with smaller circulations. Fully 85% of these larger papers have reduced newsroom staff in the past three years, compared with 52% at the smaller papers. The cuts made by larger papers have also been marginally deeper than those carried out by their smaller counterparts and newshole shrinkage has been more dramatic.

At the same time, fewer large newspapers (7%) have added staff than their smaller cousins (16%) and when they have added, the additions have been smaller. Editors at larger papers also envision a gloomier future. Over half (56%) the newsroom executives responding from larger papers said they anticipated further newsroom cuts over the next 12 months compared to just 30% of editors from smaller papers.

More broadly, the study suggests two very different experiences, with smaller newspapers apparently better anchored into their communities and with more deeply involved readerships, enjoying greater stability.