Increased competition

The number of national news organizations grew dramatically in the 1990s. Yahoo, one of several major companies that provide news online, started in 1994 as a library of Web sites and gradually expanded into news. 1 In 1996, Fox News Channel and MSNBC joined Cable News Network as 24-hour news services on cable television. 2 The traditional sources of national news, newspapers and broadcasters, now face additional competition.

Journalists often claim that competition makes them better, and a recent survey by the Committee for Concerned Journalists and The Pew Research Center For The People And The Press shows that many journalists think that journalism is in a better state for the additional competition. The survey asked journalists in national print media, national TV and radio media, local print media, local TV and radio media, and Internet media whether increased competition has made journalism better or worse. "Better" topped "worse" by only a couple of points among print media, but TV, radio, and Internet journalists overwhelmingly leaned toward "better." 3

The survey asked those who answered "worse" to give ways in which competition has changed journalism for the worse. Thirty-seven percent of national journalists, 19 percent of local journalists, and 21 percent of Internet journalists listed one of the following: "more interest in getting first than right," "mistakes due to speed," or "too eager to be first." Nine percent of national journalists, 13 percent of local journalists, and 14 percent of Internet journalists listed either "not enough consideration of context/importance/meaning of story" or "not enough attention to complex issues." Other popular answers included "need to compete lowers standards," "ratings take precedence over quality," sensationalism, and "pack journalism." 4

The survey results raise two issues that are prevalent in the readings and interviews for this paper. The first is the faster pace of news-gathering as news organizations scramble to have the news before a growing field of competitors. The second is context, which helps to explain complex issues. Taken together, these issues show journalists' fear that they are racing too fast to be first with the news and neglecting context and complexity in the process.