- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Conservatives remain scarce in the news media landscape.

Only 6 percent of the national press corps describe themselves as “conservative” in a population that includes reporters, editors and producers from major television and radio networks, daily newspapers, news wires and online sources.

Those who consider themselves “very conservative” amount to just 2 percent, according to a wide-ranging survey of 585 journalists and news executives released yesterday by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

In contrast, 36 percent of the overall population generally consider themselves conservative.

There are more conservatives in broadcast than print — 10 percent and 2 percent, respectively. Among online journalists the figure was 8 percent.

The majority of nationally ranked journalists — 53 percent — described themselves as moderate, 24 percent were liberal and 8 percent “very liberal.”

The findings have remained “basically flat” since 2004 when a similar survey was taken, said Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the media research group.

However, the mainstream press might not be quite as elite as it used to be.

“There is a pervasive sense of financial uncertainty. Journalists are wondering where the future lies. No one has that answer yet,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Indeed, 55 percent of the national press corps said business and financial woes were the most important problem in journalism today, up from 30 percent four years ago. Twenty-two percent cited the quality of coverage as the biggest problem, 20 percent cited the “media environment,” 9 percent cited flagging press credibility and 3 percent cited “ethics and standards.”

Journalists were troubled by the state of their craft as well: 82 percent said the scope of coverage has been cut too much and almost two-thirds said the line between reporting and commentary has blurred. Another 62 percent said journalism is heading in the “wrong direction.”

As for declining audiences, most — 81 percent — said Americans simply had a wider range of news choices beyond the traditional newspaper or network fare. Less than half said they are either too busy or weary of scandal coverage; about a third cited public disinterest in “serious” news. Only 18 percent said coverage is too boring.

The surge of blogs and other forms of feisty citizen journalism poses no threat to the press.

More than three-fourths of the respondents said they welcomed user comments on news sites and more than two-thirds favor video sites such as YouTube and online “news aggregating sites” such as Google News. More than half favor citizen-based news sites and journalist blogs.

But the convergence of electronic and traditional media remains a work in progress: 42 percent said the Internet strengthens traditional news values; 41 percent said it weakens them.

The survey, which included open-ended questions and multiple responses, was conducted Sept. 17 to Dec. 3.

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