Most original news reporting comes from traditional sources, study finds


As the number of sources for news proliferates on digital platforms, most original reporting still comes from newspapers, television and radio.

A study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism that surveyed news gathering in Baltimore as an example of nationwide trends found that 95% of stories with fresh information came from “old media,” and the vast majority of that from newspapers.

“The expanding universe of new media, including blogs, Twitter and local websites -- at least in Baltimore -- played only a limited role: mainly an alert system and a way to disseminate stories from other places,” the study’s authors write.


PEJ, a nonpartisan project funded by the Pew Research Center, studied news reporting from 53 sources for three days in Baltimore, and followed six key stories for a week, in an effort to understand how the “ecosystem” of news operates in an age when new media is expanding and older outlets are losing resources.

The study found that the effect of layoffs and other cutbacks on traditional sources of journalism has been severe. The Baltimore Sun, which is owned by The Times’ parent company, Tribune Co., produced 72% fewer stories in the first 11 months of 2009 than it did during the same period in 1991.

“The addition of new media,” the authors said, “has not come close to making up the difference.”

It noted that on one topic, state budget cuts, only one-third as many stories were produced from all outlets as during a similar round of cuts in 1991.

The study also examined stories on topics including a police shooting, the sale of a historic movie theater, and juvenile justice. Most -- about 83% -- “simply repeated or repackaged previously published stories,” the study said.

About two-thirds of articles that did break new ground came from newspapers. Television news accounted for about 28% of the stories that offered new information, with radio providing 7%. The study included websites affiliated with these traditional media sources.


Digital-only outlets accounted for just 4% of original pieces of reporting: One report came from a local blog, and the other was breaking news disseminated by a police Twitter feed.

With news being posted faster online, the study found that “official versions of events” -- often press releases -- are increasingly being given directly to consumers as news by all outlets.

“As the press scales back on original reporting and dissemination, or reproducing other people’s work, becomes a bigger part of the news media system, government . . . initiates most of the news,” the study found.