January 12, 2010

EDITORIAL: Newspapers still and always the leader in news

A story in Monday's paper detailed a study conducted last summer in Baltimore that attested to newspapers' dominant role in presenting news to their communities. Reports of the imminent demise of newspapers are not only greatly exaggerated — they're downright wrong.

The study done over the course of a week, monitoring 53 news outlets in Baltimore — newspapers, television, radio and Web-only outlets. It found that 61 percent of the original reporting done in Baltimore was done by a newspaper. Television stations and their Web sites created 28 percent of the stories; radio stations, 7 percent; and Web-only sites, 4 percent.

We'd guess that the ratio would be about the same around here — we may actually account for even more than 61 percent of the original reporting in this area. The editor of the Baltimore Sun believes a longer-term study would have found a higher percentage for his paper.

The reason is not that other media are doing a poor job. It's that newspapers are geared for gathering news to a degree of comprehensiveness no one else can match. We have more reporters, attend more meetings, talk to more news sources and have the space to present news that a half hour or hour on television or 15 minutes on the radio can't match. Web sites don't have the resources or experience to present a complete and balanced news report.

It used to be that newspapers would concede the important factor of immediacy to television and radio news. We'd settle for our distinct advantage in volume and thoroughness of a news report and leave the job of breaking the big story to our friends in the electronic world. Not anymore. Thanks to newspaper Web sites, stories are posted just as quickly as any other medium can do it — more quickly, in most cases. And, because we have more reporters in more places, we're uncovering lots more news minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day than anyone else.

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