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Journalists Tell Survey Online Pressures, Staff and Budget Cuts Leading to Longer Hours, Heavier Workloads

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A new study shows that newspaper journalists are facing increasing workloads, longer hours, and that almost a third of newspaper professionals indicated that “staff cuts/layoffs” most affected their jobs over the past three years.

according The PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey, released today, said the merging of traditional journalism with online communications is the primary driver behind how reporters and bloggers view their work and how public relations professionals pursue coverage for their clients.

The survey, sponsored by PR Newswire, polled 1,568 traditional and non-traditional media and, for the first time, 1,670 public-relations practitioners. Additionally, in cooperation with CNW Group, the survey also included Canadian media and professionals.

Building on 2008 and 2009 surveys, the objective was to gauge the attitudes and ideas of traditional journalists and bloggers, as well as public relations professionals, to gain an understanding of the present state of the media profession and the trends that are continuing to shape the industry.

A full review of the survey results will appear in the April issue of PRWeek.

“The past year was a time of tumult in the media world, and the challenges and opportunities that arose are reflected in this year’s survey,” said Sarah Skerik, vice president, Social Media, PR Newswire, in the press release. “Clearly, job security and fiscal solvency continue to cast a shadow over the industry. However, the rapid growth of online reporting and the continued adoption of social media make it possible to find and connect with audiences online, presenting journalists and communicators with many new opportunities. However, this still remains a time of flux, and that sentiment is apparent in some of the diverging views between traditional and online media and the media and PR community.”

Hours and Responsibilities

Continuing a trend from the 2008 and 2009 surveys, more than 70 percent of the 2010 respondents indicate a heavier workload as compared to last year, with the majority (58 percent) stating that the number of stories for which they are responsible has increased over the past two years. As in 2009, the primary cause of the increased workload is the need to contribute to online reporting. Of those surveyed, 62 percent are required to write for online news sections, with 39 percent contributing to their publication’s blog. 37 percent of U.S. journalists also now must maintain a Twitter feed.

Canadian media are also experiencing greater demands for their time, with 58 percent suggesting a greater workload in the past year. Similarly, Canadian journalists are expected to contribute to online news sites, blogs and Twitter feeds, but participation is less than their U.S. counterparts – 55 percent, 30 percent, and 30 percent, respectively.

Work Environment and Industry Outlook

The survey found that 31 percent of respondents indicated that “staff cuts/layoffs” most affected their jobs over the past three years. This finding is significantly higher than 2009 (22 percent) which affirms that the instability and uncertainty in 2009 weighed heavily on the minds of reporters. Second to staff cuts/layoff, 29 percent of those surveyed stated that “tightening budgets” had the greatest impact on their work. Similar issues were recognized by Canadian journalists, with 21 percent pointing to staff cuts/layoffs and 33 percent suggesting tightening budgets.

Looking ahead, the shift from print to online reporting is seen as the primary industry driver for the next three years, with 57 percent of magazine and newspaper journalists indicating that this trend will continue in earnest. “Reduction in staff” was chosen by 28 percent of respondents as the key concern for the next three years; however this number is significantly less than 2009 (42 percent) suggesting that reporters may feel more stable in their current positions. Comparable sentiment was expressed by Canadian magazine/newspaper journalists, with 49 percent stating that the shift from print to online will continue and 24 percent expecting further reductions in staff over the next three years.

Measuring Success

When asked to identify the primary goal of their work, 50 percent of respondents indicated “educate and inform the masses” as the top consideration of their job. This number is consistent with 2009’s mark of 53 percent. However, a striking change occurred in the second-most selected measure of success: “Break news and chronicle events as they happen.” Selected by 20 percent of respondents, the result was significantly greater than 2009 (five percent) which indicates a growing premium on being first with news, likely driven by the growth of online reporting and the 24/7 news cycle.

A new question to the survey, but an issue that appears important to success: When asked if building a personal brand was a consideration in their work, the majority of US (52 percent) and Canadian media (60 percent) responded either “extremely important” or “important.”

Blogger/Social Media Perception & Influence

The majority of bloggers now view themselves as journalists – 52 percent. This is a marked increase from 2009 when just one in three had the same opinion. Yet, despite viewing themselves as professional, only 20 percent derive the majority of their income from their blog work; a four percentage-point increase from 2009.

Among the total respondents, the use of blogs and social networks for research increased significantly in 2010 as compared to 2009; however this spike appears to be skewed by online magazine/news reporters and bloggers. While 91 percent of bloggers and 68 percent of online reporters “always” or “sometimes” use blogs for research, only 35 percent of newspaper and 38 percent of print magazine journalists suggested the same.

This divergence was also seen when using social networks for research. Overall, 33 percent of respondents indicated using such assets, but blogger usage (48 percent) was greater than newspaper (31 percent) and print magazine (27 percent).

This contrast is even sharper when considering Twitter. 64 percent of bloggers and 36 percent of online reporters confirmed employing Twitter as a research tool. On the other hand, newspaper reporters (19 percent) and print magazine reporters (17 percent) appear to find less value in using Twitter for research. Newspaper and print magazine reporters also source Twitter less frequently than their media counterparts, with 19 percent and 22 percent saying they have used a Twitter post in a story. This is sharply different from bloggers (55 percent), online magazine/news (42 percent) and even TV news (48 percent).

Media & PR

The prevalence of social and consumer-generated media has led to several changes in the way that public relations practitioners view and engage the press. While, public relations professionals still consider email to be the most effective means for pitching journalists (74 percent), 43 percent of journalists report having being pitched through social networks compared to 31 percent in 2009.

Higher success rates may be a reason behind the increase. In both the United States and Canada, pitches through a social network resulted in coverage approximately 70 percent of the time. In contrast, the standard pitch to a United States or Canadian journalist rarely leads to coverage, with 66 percent pegging the success rate at 0-20 percent.

An interesting divergence in media and public relations perception was seen in questions about the influence of advertising on editorial. While the majority of media respondents believe there is a clear line, 54 percent of public relations practitioners believe that editorial has become “much more influenced by advertising,” with 40 percent having received editorial coverage as a result of a pay-for-play relationship.

“Heavier workloads, shorter deadlines, and increased competition are causing journalists to seek out new sources of information to help them get their jobs done, including social networks,” said Erica Iacono, executive editor of PRWeek, in the press release. “Although these new tools offer a different way for journalists to interact with PR professionals and media consumers, there must still be a focus on the basic tenets of good journalism.”

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Written by newscycle

April 1, 2010 at 1:42 pm

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