People can approach the material in this report several ways. Users can go directly to the media about which they are most concerned – local television news, for example – and drive vertically through it. Or they can focus on a particular issue, such as audience trends, and move horizontally across different media sectors to see where Americans are going for news. Or they can move across the overviews of each sector. They can flip back and forth between our narrative and the interactive chart and tabular material. Or they can work through the statistics for themselves, making their own charts, answering their own questions, in effect creating their own report.
The report is substantial. It runs more than 500 pages in print and includes extensive tabular appendices. There are more than 400 detailed footnoted source citations to help guide users to original sources.
In addition to this overview, each sector of media is subject to a detailed narrative and synthesis of the data that we hope answer most of the major questions about underlying trends and outline what is unknown as well.
Our desire in this study is to answer questions we imagine any reader would find important, to help clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the available data, and to identify what is not yet answerable.
We have attempted, to the best of our ability and the limits of time, to seek out multiple sources of information for comparison where they exist. Each year we hope to gather more sources, improve our understanding and refine our methodology.
This study is the work of many collaborators, including more than 25 outside readers who are expert in different media sectors, five research partners and dozens of research groups whose data we purchased or got permission to use. The chapters on television and cable were jointly written with Andrew Tyndall of ADT Research, who executed the content analyses on those sectors. The report on newspapers was co-written by Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute and PEJ staff. The content analysis was executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates and Tyndall under the direction of the Project. The methodology and statistical work were supervised by Esther Thorson, associate dean for graduate studies and research at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Irvin Molotsky, former reporter and editor at the New York Times, was the copy editor. We owe a significant debt, as well, to our sister group, the Committee of Concerned Journalists and its chairman, Bill Kovach. More details on their contributions are available here, along with the methodology.
Our focus in this report is on journalism, not media as a whole. There are various important trends in media – such as the implications of consolidation or cable technology on nonfiction entertainment, on music or on drama – that are not covered here.
This annual report was designed with various audiences in mind: journalists, media executives, financial analysts, scholars, students and, most importantly, citizens. We hope it proves useful now and throughout the year for anyone interested in American journalism.