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Bottom-Line Pressures Now Hurting Coverage, Say Journalists

Survey Methodology

This survey is based on interviews with 547 journalists and news media executives by telephone and online. The same questionnaire was used for both modes. The interviews were completed from March 10, 2004 through April 20, 2004.

Design of the Media Samples

Three samples were drawn for this survey: a national news media sample, a local news media sample and an Internet news sample. Both the national and local samples were divided into two groups: print and broadcast (which includes television and radio).

For the national sample, the print category includes newspapers, magazines, wire services, and news services; the television category encompasses cable, television and radio networks.

For the local sample, the print category includes newspapers from a listing of the top 100 newspapers ranked by circulation, excluding those selected for the national sample. The television category includes local television stations from the top 100 media markets.

Within each of these market/medium strata (national and local, print and television), specific organizational positions (i.e., managing editor, correspondent) were selected.

The Internet sample was selected from online-only news outlets, as well as the online news outlets of traditional print and television news organizations. The specific sampling procedures are outlined below.

To obtain a sample that represented a cross-section of news organizations and of the people working at all levels of those organizations, the news media were divided into the following groupings:

Importance of medium in terms of size of audience, market or influence.

  • National audience
  • Local audience
  • Internet audience
  • Type of media
  • Newspapers
  • News magazines
  • Wire services
  • News services
  • Television stations and networks
  • Radio stations and networks
  • Organizational responsibility of the individual respondent
  • Executive
  • Senior editors and producers
  • Working editors and journalists

Identifying the Samples

National newspapers were identified using 2002 circulation numbers in 2003 Editor & Publisher International Year Book.

National television news organizations included the three national networks, major national cable networks, public television, and radio chains with Washington, D.C. bureaus. Particularly for the national sample, every attempt was made to replicate the selection of news organizations used for an earlier Center survey conducted in 1995.

The news media executives and journalists in each position within these organizations were drawn from the News Media Yellow Book database online, with the exception of national radio organizations, which were drawn from Bacon’s MediaSource, and national newspapers, which were drawn from Editor & Publisher International Year Book. A complete listing of the selected national news organizations is below.

Local newspapers were also identified using 2002 circulation numbers in 2003 Editor & Publisher International Year Book. They include the 84 (out of the top 100) papers that were not pulled for the national sample.

Local television stations were selected from the top 100 media markets, as defined by Nielsen Media Research for 2003. After the local sample was selected, Bacon’s MediaSource was used to identify the news media executives and journalists in each organization.

Respondents were selected using a two-stage sampling procedure. In the first stage, news media organizations were selected and in the second stage individuals were chosen from those organizations. The criteria for selecting national and local news organizations are outlined below.

Media Organizations Sampled

National Media

Television Networks ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MSNBC, FOX Cable News, Telemundo, Univision

Chains with Washington, D.C. Bureaus Gannett, Cox, Hearst

Radio Associated Press Radio, ABC Radio Networks, CBS Radio Networks, Westwood One, Black Radio Network, National Public Radio

Newspapers Arizona Republic , Atlanta Journal-Constitution , Boston Globe , Chicago Tribune , Detroit Free Press , Houston Chronicle , Long Island Newsday , Los Angeles Times , Miami Herald , New York Daily News , New York Times , Philadelphia Inquirer , San Francisco Chronicle , USA TODAY , Wall Street Journal , Washington Post

Magazines Newsweek, Time, U.S. News & World Report

Wire Services Associated Press, Bloomberg News Service, Reuters

News Services Copley, Cox Newspapers, Gannett, Hearst, Knight-Ridder, Newhouse, Scripps-Howard

Local Media

Television A random sample was selected from all stations listed in the top 100 media markets.

Print The top 100 newspapers ranked by circulation were selected, excluding those newspapers selected for the national sample.

Respondents Selected at each Organization (By Title)

National Sample

Executive Level TV & Radio: President/CEO, Vice President, General Manager, Station Manager

Print: Publisher, President/CEO, Vice President

Senior Editors and Producers TV & Radio: News Division Executive, Executive Producer

Print: Assistant Managing Editor, Managing Editor, Executive Editor, Section Editor

Working Journalists and Editors TV & Radio: Bureau Chief, Senior Producer, Correspondent, Anchor

Print: Bureau Chief, Senior Editor, Columnist, Associate Editor, Reporter, Correspondent, Assignment editor

Local Sample

Executive Level Television: President/CEO, Vice President, General Manager, Station Manager

Print: Publisher, President/CEO, Vice President

Senior Editors and Producers Print: Assistant Managing Editor, Managing Editor, Executive Editor, Business, Metro and Editorial Section Editors

Television: News Director

Working Journalists and Editors Television: Producer, Correspondent

Print: National Editor, Editor, Reporter, Senior Editor, National and Foreign Editors, Associate Editors, Columnist

Internet Sample

Online Producer, Online Vice President, Online Content Manager, General Manager of Website, Online Editor

The national and local news media samples were each divided into subgroups, defined by the type of news organization and the respondent’s position within that organization. Each subgroup was randomly split into replicates. Quotas were set for the number of interviews to be completed in each subgroup. The Internet sample was also assigned a quota. These quotas were set to ensure adequate representation of the smaller subgroups in the final sample of completed interviews. The subgroups, quotas, and number of completed interviews for each are listed below.

Each person sampled for this survey was mailed an advance letter. The letters were intended to introduce the survey to prospective respondents, describe the nature and purpose of the survey and encourage participation. The letter was sent from the Pew Research Center; the Project for Excellence in Journalism; and the Committee of Concerned Journalists was involved. It contained a URL and a password to complete the survey online as well as notification that interviewers would be calling as well.

As soon as the letters were mailed, a website was available for respondents to complete the interview online.

Approximately one week after the letter was mailed, trained interviewers began calling the sampled individuals to remind them of the letter, discuss doing the survey online or conducting the interview on the telephone. In all cases, a follow-up email was sent after three days of initial calls, repeating the substance of the letter and providing the URL again.

If a respondent refused an interview, in most cases an email appeal was sent, asking the individual to reconsider. This was followed approximately one week later by another telephone call.

If a member of the sample had not completed the interview online or by telephone within two weeks of mailing the first letter, follow-up telephone calls were made to complete the interview or to schedule an appointment to do so.

The interviewers were experienced, executive specialists trained to ensure their familiarity with the questionnaire and their professionalism in dealing with news media professionals. The interviews were completed from March 10, 2004 through April 20, 2004.

Interviews were completed with 67% of the selected news media respondents who still held their position; 12% could not be reached in order to complete an interview, despite repeated calls; and 21% refused to participate in the survey.

Profile of News Professionals

Journalists and managers in major national and local news organizations tend to be well- educated, middle-aged, with substantial experience in the field. The median age of those surveyed is 47 years, with nearly four-in-ten (38%) falling between 45 and 54 years of age. Only 13% are under the age of 35. The median experience of the respondents is 22 years.

Most of the journalists surveyed have a college degree; less than 10% have not completed college. Significant numbers have a graduate degree or at least some graduate school experience. About half of print journalists have a degree in journalism; communications degrees are more common among broadcast professionals at the local level.

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