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Author’s Note

Author’s Note

By the Project for Excellence in Journalism

For each of the media sectors, we examine six different areas — content, audience trends, economics, ownership, newsroom investment and public attitudes. We aggregate as much publicly available data as is possible in one place, and for six of the sectors the report includes original content analysis. (For local television news, we rely on five years of content analysis the Project had previously conducted. For radio and alternative media, no special content analysis was conducted.) In addition to numerous new charts of data, most charts from the 2004 report are updated and still available.

People can approach the material in this report in several ways. Users can go directly to the medium about which they are most concerned — say local TV news — and drive vertically through it. Or they can focus on a particular issue — audience trends for example — and move horizontally across different media sectors to see where Americans are going for news. Or they can move across the introductory overviews of each sector. They can flip back and forth between our narrative and the interactive charts 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 reports.

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 Project for Excellence in Journalism, an institute affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The study is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, whose leadership challenged us to take on this assignment. The chapters were written by the Project’s staff, with the exception of the chapter on newspapers, which was written with the help of a co-author. All of the chapters also benefit from the input of a team 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 proven and what is only suggested. We hope, however, that we are not seen as simply taking sides. Our intention is to inform, not to persuade.

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 that data. 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 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 venues. We hope this will allow us and others to make comparisons and develop insights that otherwise would be difficult to see.