It's a provocative introduction to the "State of the Media 2006" report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism: "Will we recall this as the year when journalism in print began to die?"
It's not that bad, the report says: "We believe some fears are overheated. For now, the evidence does not support the notion that newspapers have begun a sudden death spiral. The circulation declines and job cuts will probably tally at only about 3% for the year. The industry still posted profit margins of 20%."
But beneath the surface the report finds trouble:
- More outlets are covering fewer stories with thinner resources.
- Big-city newspapers are suffering disproportionate circulation losses.
- "The decades-long battle at the top between idealists and accountants is now over" and the idealists have lost.
- "The central economic question in journalism continues to be how long it will take online journalism to become a major economic engine, and if it will ever be as big as print or television."
The report also says "Online journalism, in 2006, is still young. Like an adolescent, it is learning what it can do. It is even making a little money. But it is still not really paying its own way. And it isn’t entirely sure what it will be doing when it grows up."
Update: Terry Heaton says the overall theme of the report "is defensive and whiny and doesn't do the industry any good." He says professional journalism itself is the problem: "Professional journalism -- as this report (and the institution itself) defines it -- is sinking slowly into the sea of irrelevance, having been blasted by the torpedoes of a culture that wishes to move forward."