PEJ: News generates more heat but less light, more voices but fewer conversations and bigger audiences but and smaller purses

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The Project for Excellence in Journalism released its encyclopedic omnibus study of news coverage across media in 2007. The study is a huge amalgam of information about the state of the news media and its future prospects, with 13 chapters covering everything from ethnic to online news. I continue to wade through the volumes of information offered by the PEJ report, but the exec summary helpfully offers these somewhat counter-intuitive trends:

  1. News is shifting from being a product — today’s newspaper, Web site or newscast — to becoming a service — how can you help me, even empower me?
  2. A news organization and a news Web site are no longer final destinations.
  3. The prospects for user-created content, once thought possibly central to the next era of journalism, for now appear more limited, even among “citizen” sites and blogs.
  4. Increasingly, the newsroom is perceived as the more innovative and experimental part of the news industry.
  5. The agenda of the American news media continues to narrow, not broaden.
  6. Madison Avenue, rather than pushing change, appears to be having trouble keeping up with it.

Based on these trends the builders of online news sites, be they ethnic centered blogs or major corporate affairs, can no longer build their model on the hope of simply informing users. Information is a commodity and the evolution of news must be away from generic information and towards a service which leverages information in some meaningful way. Creating a service, something that users care about , is not easy to do and is based on a skill set not native to newsrooms.

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