Tennessee Commercial Appeal

Less Outlying and International News Many newsrooms have trimmed or shuttered bureaus in outlying areas and abroad. Typical is the Memphis, Tennessee Commercial Appeal. The bureaus in Jackson, Mississippi and Little Rock, Arkansas have been shut down. The state capital bureau in Nashville, once with three reporters, has been trimmed to one.

Foreign bureaus are fewer every year. ABC and CBS, for example, had long shuttered their Cairo bureaus when the Egyptian revolution erupted in 2011. The lack of U.S. journalists on the ground explains in part why Americans were so unaware when the hundreds of thousands of people brought down the Egyptian government. The over- air networks had to rush in reporters, and in the meantime, relied on iReporting by civilians on the ground, tweets and Facebook statuses, and video feed texted via mobile phones—also from civilians. The pan-Arabic network Al Jazeera, on the other hand, offered stronger coverage from its staff stationed in Egypt. Al Jazeera, in fact, became a primary source of news for the U.S. networks as well as for the White House and U.S. State Department.

Fewer Beats Reporters assigned to cover specialized areas are being given broader beats. Some police beat reporters, for example, now also cover the courts. To cover some beats, editors in some newsrooms have shuffled reporters from general assignment duties to beats, which mean there are fewer resources for day-to-day coverage of breaking news that doesn’t fall in the bailiwick of one of the surviving beats.

Less Independent Reporting Newsrooms are sharing stories among corporate siblings, which fills space cheaply but reduces the traditional value of competitive reporting, yielding better coverage overall and increasing the likelihood of disseminating erroneous news reports. Many newspapers and newscasts fill up with a growing percentage of faraway content from the AP, which is far less costly per story than staff-generated local coverage. One

upshot is less diversity in content when AP stories, appearing word for word in news packages statewide, even nationwide, displace local coverage.

The trend toward shared stories is most obvious with so-called multimedia newsrooms. One of the first was the integrated newsroom of the Tampa, Florida Tribune television station WFLA and TBO.com. Some local television stations are sparing themselves the cost of operating a newsroom and contracting with crosstown stations to provide the newscasts. Efficient? Yes. That repackaging is better than fresh content, however, is hard to argue.

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