Newspapers around the country are shutting down or cutting back, and as a result, according to an estimate by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, one out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 no longer does so. Many are quick to finger online news as the culprit in the death of print newspapers. And it is true, finds a 2008 Pew Research survey, that more Americans (40%) now get their news online than from a newspaper (35%) — a 19-point jump in just two years for online news. But the principal problem facing newspapers — and all of journalism — is not about audience but rather revenue, specifically the decoupling of advertising from news. Newspaper ad revenues have fallen 23% in the last two years. Roughly half of all classified advertising revenue has vanished. Insiders now expect that classified revenue could be zero in five years — or sooner. There is little room for optimism in PEJ’s assessment of journalism in 2008. But given these trends, 2009 may be the worst year yet. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.