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Most people know that the past few years haven’t been kind to the newspaper business; papers across the country have faced painful cutbacks as advertising revenues have shrunk.

Yet a survey from the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that despite the difficulties, newspapers continue to do the local-news heavy lifting: reporting, researching and presenting new information.

Looking at the Baltimore news market and tracking six big stories during a week in July 2009, Pew found that 61% of the original reporting on the stories was done by newspapers and their Web sites.

Local TV stations and their Web sites did most other original reporting, at 28%.

Radio stations and their sites contributed only 7% of new content, and Internetonly outlets did only 4%.

The Pew study confirms that newspapers continue to be the primary source of local news content, even as their resources shrink.

And since most news websites simply aggregate news provided by newspapers, they would be severely diminished if newspapers ever reach the point where they no longer can do the reporting and investigating on which the public depends.

Newspapers are proud to carry the banner of local reporting. This kind of reporting is the only way to ensure an independent look at events and trends that affect readers and their families.

Without reporters sitting in on meetings, questioning officials, reading documents and interviewing people affected by the news, the public would be left with only the “official” story, crafted and disseminated by a government office or a corporation to reflect as favorably as possible on the institutions involved.

Without editors (plentiful in newspapers, not so much on the Internet) to look over the reporters’ and researchers’ shoulders, to catch errors, fill holes and offer differing perspectives, mistakes, omissions and misunderstandings would ricochet across the Web to an extent far greater than they already do.

The ever-expanding universe of ways to find things out, including blogs and social-media tools such as Twitter, offer infinite possibilities for a newshungry public, but these outlets still rely on the original sources of local news.–Columbus Dispatch



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