May 11, 2010

How Newsrooms Are Coping with Cutbacks

Newspaper Executives Broadcast Executives Total
Plenty big to do the job 9 8 8
Leaner than ideal but can do the job well 70 64 66
Too small to do more than the bare minimum 16 22 20
So small cannot meet the needs of operation 4 1 1

20% – Percentage of news executives who say their staff is too small to do more than the minimum level of reporting

The floundering economy and struggling journalism industry have taken their toll in many newsrooms. Indeed when the Project for Excellence in Journalism—in association with the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA)—recently surveyed 353 newspaper and broadcast executives, seven out of 10 reported staff cutbacks in the past three years. 

While the majority of executives surveyed in the News Leaders and the Future study said their organizations are coping with the changes, others acknowledge a significant impact. Fully 20% of newsroom executives say their staff is now too small to do more than “the bare minimum level of reporting.” And another 1% of say the staff is so small that they “cannot meet the needs of their news operation.”

The largest segment of respondents say their newsrooms are still functioning well, albeit not at optimum capacity. Two-thirds, 66%, say their staff is “leaner than ideal, but that they can still do the job well.”  One executive explained that given the tighter staffing, “We have been forced to focus like a laser on what we can do well and not worry about the rest.”

And only 8% of those responding say the newsroom “is still plenty big to do the job.”

Newspaper executives offered a slightly more positive assessment than broadcast officials of how their newsrooms were functioning, but the differences weren’t large. What these responses do suggest is that, within the news industry, the idea that staffs had gotten bloated—and that these cutbacks have sliced into fat and not bone—is not widely shared.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ