by Mike Masnick
Fri, Oct 2nd 2009 5:19pm
We keep hearing from newspaper execs about how important it is to keep newspapers alive to fund all that important "investigative reporting." The problem, of course, is that most newspapers don't really do all that much investigative reporting. Hell, they don't really do that much reporting at all. A few months back, we noted that a quick look at a variety of local newspapers all showed a very small number of locally produced stories (usually under 10) each day. All the rest were wire stories and other stuff -- not much actual local reporting at all. As a whole bunch of you are sending in, Clay Shirky recently did a similar experiment, taking apart his local hometown newspaper, slicing the paper up into "news" and "other" categories, and finding that news was a small fraction. And most of the news was wire service. Actual locally produced news involved only six reporter bylines. In investigating further, he discovered that the paper only had six reporters -- despite a staff of 59 people. And, yes, obviously many of those other roles are important -- the editors, the printers, etc. But, at some point you have to question the claim that the "reporting" is so expensive. It certainly looks like there's an awful lot of overhead and inefficiency built into the system. And that's why newer news startups are able to succeed -- because they don't have that extra legacy layer of fat to deal with.
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