Newspaper editor quality issues reflect B2B publishing concerns

“Media ethics: Lack of resources, training compromise quality journalism.”

Does the above sound like a typical headline one might expect to find describing today’s B2B plight?  In fact, the observation led off an article describing a recent Media Ethics Day presentation occurring in Pakistan.

The article’s introductory sentence: “National and international media persons have deplored that Pakistan lacked training centers, resources and had hostile environment for journalists, which was compromising quality.”

Clearly, teetering quality is a shot heard around the world in newspaper editing circles. It’s much the same in the USA, as noted in Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2013 report.

“Signs of a shrinking reporting power are documented throughout this year’s report,” says Pew.  The news industry “is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.

“And findings from our new public opinion survey released in this report reveal the public is taking notice. Nearly one third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.”

Later on, the report’s Overview expands upon respondents abandoning what were perceived as sinking ships. “With reporting sources cut to the bone and fewer specialized beats, journalists’ level of expertise in any one area and the ability to go deep into a story are compromised.

“Indeed, when people who had heard something about the financial struggles were asked which effect they notice more – stories that were less complete or fewer stories overall – 48% named less complete stories while 31% mostly noticed fewer stories over all.”

(Editor’s note: Questions about capability already have been directed at digital media news performance.  Earlier this year, in one segment of a series – Ethical Issues in the Online World – Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics stated:

“Ethical traditions in journalism ensure multiple sources and careful attentions to facts.  But many people have come to expect their news for free, and feet-on-the-ground reporting and fact-checking are expensive.  That makes it very difficult for true news operations to survive.  Unfortunately, we’re seeing a decline in quality as a result.”)

Another interesting trend the Pew Research report addressed was newspaper publishers’ testing frequency declines from daily to three days a week.  One publisher described the decline as necessary for long-term survival.  In interviews with executives at 13 major companies in early 2012, the most common prediction “was that more and more papers would soon adopt the three-day-a-week publication schedule.”

Sharp growth in sponsored advertising – which has clear B2B ethical considerations – also was addressed.  “Promoted tweets on Twitter account for some of the growth,” the report states, “along with the rise of native ads – the digital term for advertorials containing advertiser-produced stories – which often run alongside a site’s own editorial content.

“Though it remains small in dollars, the category’s growth rate is second only to that of video.  Sponsorship ads rose 38.9%, to $1.56 billion; that followed a jump of 56.1% 2011.” Later on, the report concedes that the sponsored ad surge “runs the risk of confusing readers about the difference between advertising and news content.”

(Editor’s note:  Reactions to this article will be included in an upcoming “Ethics Mailbag” summary.  Send comments to ethics@asbpe.org.)