"The number of full-time journalists working at daily newspapers continues to fall," reports the American Society of Newspapers Editors, summarizing its annual survey of minority employment at dailies. "Since the economic downturn of 2001, newsrooms have lost a net of more than 2,200 journalists while the number of minority journalists has increased."
Are these numbers correct? The trade publication Editor & Publisher sure thinks so, asserting as fact that "the total number of newsroom professionals has dropped 4% in four years—from 56,393 in 2001 to 54,134 in 2005."
But I think there's a strong reason to be skeptical of this survey, and of those who would pass along its findings as fact. As far as I can tell, it does not take into account the boomlet of new tabloid newspapers.
According to the ASNE. "926 of the 1,413 daily newspapers responded to the survey," and "the data from newspapers that returned the survey are used to project the numbers for nonresponding newspapers in the same circulation range." (Italics mine.) I haven't yet received a list back of which precise titles constitute the 1,413 newspapers, but you can see which ones responded stretching back to 1998, and never on any of those lists will you find a Philadelphia Metro (circulation: 150,000), a Nashville City Paper (65,000), a Dallas Quick (150,000), or (as far as I can tell) any of the scores of new tabs that have been launched in the last five years.
These papers may be unloved within the industry, but they do employ professional journalists. Saying that overall employment at dailies is decreasing, while ignoring the biggest new generator of employment, is a bit like saying TV news networks are shedding jobs while ignoring cable. And continuing to claim that the overall number of U.S. dailies is declining—from 1,472 in 1997, to 1,413 today—is just inaccurate.
In the scheme of things, this is no big deal, beyond the usual cautionary tale of trusting news outlets with math. But I'd suggest that it also falls under the rich category of news-industry professionals confusing the world they have known—fat, monopoly-style dailies—with the more interesting real world around them.