This, the eighth edition of PEJ’s State of the News Media, is an attempt to take stock of the revolution occurring in how Americans get news and information.
Each year, we analyze the major sectors of the news industry in depth and look across those different elements of the news media to see broader trends that cannot be identified by the traditional method of looking one sector at a time.
To produce the report, we combine data others have generated with our own reporting, and with our own data and original analysis. Our goal each year is to provide for citizens, journalists, researchers and scholars a singular resource about American journalism — the record of our civic and cultural life.
For each of the eight sectors studied, we examine developments in five distinct areas—audience, economics, newsroom investment, ownership and digital trends — and, often, alternative outlets as well. In addition to much new data, most charts and tables from earlier reports are updated and still available.
This year’s report is redesigned to be simpler to navigate. Mindful of the potential of the web to present and process information in new ways, particularly visually, the media sector chapters now contain two parts. A summary essay tells the narrative story of that sector over the course of the past year. A separate By the Numbers section presents a full range of statistics, graphically rendered with minimal text to make data easier to locate and scan. In addition, users can interact with the data by accessing the statistics in the form of Excel spreadsheets to make their own tables and answer their own questions.
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.
The study is the work of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan and nonpolitical institute that studies the information revolution. PEJ is one of seven initiatives that make up the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. The center and this work are funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The chapters were written by the Project’s staff, with the exception of the chapters on newspapers and local TV, which were co-authored with industry experts. All of the chapters also benefit from the input of teams of readers who are experts in each media sector.
Our aim is a research report, not an argument. Where the facts are clear, we hope we have not shied from explaining what they reveal, making clear what is proved and what is only suggested. We hope that we are not seen as taking sides. Our intention is to inform, not to persuade, and where we interpret data to draw conclusions, our goal is to do so in a way that is fully supported by the data, and only when those data are clear.
We have tried to be as transparent as possible about sources and methods, and to make it clear when we are laying out data and when we have moved into analysis of it. We have attempted, to the best of our ability and within 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.
Our approach — looking at a set of questions across various media — differs from the conventional way in which American journalism is analyzed, one medium at a time. We have tried to identify cross-media trends and to gather in one place data that are usually scattered across different sites. We hope this will allow us and others to make comparisons and develop insights that otherwise would be difficult to see.