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 600 pages in print and includes extensive tabular appendices. There are more than 700 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 answers most of the major questions about underlying trends and outlines 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. This year we have added new sources to those in the 2004 report, refined the methodology of the content study and we think, improved our overall understanding.
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 were written by PEJ. The chapter 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 International, The School of Journalism at Michigan State University and The Institute for Communication Research of the College of Communication & Information Sciences as The University of Alabama 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. Evan Jenkins, a longtime journalist, currently a consulting editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, 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.