From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris. A new report called "The State of the News Media" says journalism is undergoing profound change as it tries to respond to a fragmenting audience and the challenge of the Web. The report is by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. It says this transformation is as momentous as the invention of television or the telegraph. Perhaps even as big as the Printing Press.

NPR's Lynn Neary reports.

LYNN NEARY: The new era of journalism, says Tom Rosenstiel, one of the authors of the report, represents a significant shift in power from the journalist to the citizen. The old days when journalists acted as gatekeepers who provided news to their readers or audience are over. Now, says Rosenstiel, the audience decides what it wants to see.

Mr. TOM ROSENSTIEL (Co-author, "The State of the News Media"): We've gone from the trust me era of journalism, in which me is the journalist, to the show me era of journalism, in which the me is the citizen.

NEARY: That doesn't mean people aren't interested in news. Quite the contrary, says Rosenstiel. But with all the resources now available the audience is splintered. As a result, most news organizations have a smaller number of viewers, readers and listeners. And that in turn means fewer resources. In response, says Rosenstiel, journalism is entering a new phase of limited ambitions. News organizations are trying to build an audience around a specific area of coverage. Some are practicing what he calls hyper-localism. Others may focus on personality.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: And so what you're seeing news organizations do is essentially decide that there are going to be a niche brand. They can't be pure general interest news outlets anymore because they don't have enough boots on the ground. Now the good side of that is that, to some extent, our problem in the media is we have too many news organizations chasing after the same story. But in another way it also means that certain things may go uncovered all together.

NEARY: The Project for Excellence in Journalism has been tracking trends in the news media for a number of years. Rosenstiel says in this, their fourth annual report, there is evidence that the world of traditional journalism is finally coming to terms with the radical changes brought about by the Web. Rosenstiel says one big change he has seen even in the last two years is that news organizations are now actively experimenting with the Internet.

Mr. ROSENSTIEL: We've gone from a kind of defensiveness that the Internet means no standards, rumor and gossip run amuck, to wait, the Internet may be our future, we better go there. We're not sure how it's going to sort out, but this actually could be a richer environment than the old one.

NEARY: The challenge for journalism is finding a new economic model to support itself. The old model of advertising in newspapers and on television is less successful on the Internet, where people expect to get their news for free. Rosenstiel says journalism needs more risk takers to lead the way into the future.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

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