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Another Pew Report: Meet the Depressed

I feel both guilty and bound by an odd sense of responsibility to tip you to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism "The State of The News Media" report for 2010, which is online today.

If the title alone hasn't scared you away yet, you should know that this beast weighs in at close to 180,000 words. I figure that by the time I am done reading it, three or so mid-size newspapers someplace in Southeast will have crashed.

And, yes, that is an admission that I have not gotten through the whole thing, though I have read more than 1 percent of it. I'm not sure how much more I can take.

In fact, when I get done typing this I plan to go back to bed and call in sick to one of my previous bosses, just so I can remember what it felt like to be gainfully employed as a journalist, and making a few bucks while questioning power.

Look, basically, if for some reason you still call yourself a journalist, my question is, why?

The news is every bit as bad as you thought it was. OK, it's worse, actually.

If you work at a newspaper, especially, your days are numbered. The folks who wrote this report suggest you picture sand pouring through an hourglass to give you some idea of how dire the situation is.

Basically, count on the sand to continue obeying gravity, and your time as a print journalist slipping away, unless, or until, some kind of revenue-generating miracle happens.

Hey, be hopeful, could be some 13-year-old kid in Russia will come up with an Internet virus that systematically melts the inside of every computer on the planet.

Actually, this is how the report put it:

For newspapers, which still provide the largest share of reportorial journalism in the United States, the metaphor that comes to mind is sand in an hourglass. The shrinking money left in print, which still provides 90% of the industry's funds, is the amount of time left to invent new revenue models online. The industry must find a new model before that money runs out.

The losses are already enormous. To quantify the impact, with colleague Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute, we estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30%. That leaves an estimated $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves we predict more cuts in 2010.

Cheery stuff to be sure. And while we're on a negative roll, here's another cream-filled outtake from the report:

Local television ad revenue fell 22% in 2009, triple the decline the year before. Radio also was off 22%. Magazine ad revenue dropped 17%, network TV 8% (and news alone probably more). Online ad revenue over all fell about 5%, and revenue to news sites most likely also fared much worse.

Only cable news among the commercial news sectors did not suffer declining revenue last year.

How about that, eh? The alphabetical sludge that comprise FOX, CNN and MSNBC are actually making money. That might say more about the state of the media than anything an 11,000-page report can say.

This is exceedingly good for wiseguys like me, however, who can dine on an endless supply of crap disguised as news pouring forth from these channels.

Now if only I could figure out a way to make a few bucks while doing it ...

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)