Media Moves

The evolution of consumer reporting

May 5, 2010

Erin Locker writes on CollegeBizJournalism.org about how consumer reporting has evolved due to the Internet.

Locker writes, “Mass budget cuts and layoffs put the consumer beat on the backburner as editors were forced to prioritize.

Mark Watanabe, technology editor at The Seattle Times, says the newspaper’s consumer coverage is much more limited than it used to be. ‘It’s simple economics. Newspaper staffs across country — here no exception — have reduced head counts by double-digit percentages,’ he says. ‘That forces publications to identify core coverage areas and product reviewing becomes a place to cut.’

“Watanabe also says the Times increasingly relies on freelance and wire reports to cover consumer issues for the paper: ‘When our staff was larger, we had a reporter dedicated to consumer use of technology. With the reduction in staff throughout the newsroom, that position is long gone.’

“The recession therefore presents an irony. When the economy tanks, consumers want more information about saving money and smart purchasing. But at the same time, newspapers lose money and cut consumer reporting. The resulting disconnect has made it necessary for readers to look elsewhere for their consumer information.

Walter Mossberg, columnist for the Wall Street Journal and seasoned consumer and technology reporter, gives credit to the online movement: ‘I don’t think there are fewer [consumer reporters]. I think there are more, if you count all the many, many blogs aimed at informing consumers.'”

Read more here.

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