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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Newspapers find original stories

By Tom Warhover
January 15, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

Dear Reader,

A study out this week confirmed what many of us have known all along: Most original reporting comes from newspapers.

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Good news for a newspaper guy like me. But not all of the news was upbeat.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism took an in-depth look at the media for one week in one city, Baltimore, to discover the sources of news.

It said it was a study of a “news ecosystem.”

The researchers searched for all the news producers – radio talk shows, blogs, new media sites and the old standbys of newspapers, television and radio stations. They then took six major stories that week for a closer look.

Among the findings:

That’s hardly reason to crow. Too many stories are generated off press releases or regurgitated with just one or two new factoids.

The study made clear that newspaper reporting had decreased. The major newspaper in town, the Baltimore Sun, had almost a third fewer stories than at the same time 10 years ago.

Still, while the number of ways to get news has increased dramatically, it’s the newspaper that produces most of the enterprise reporting.  It delivers that news in print and in many digital platforms.

I know we can't read too much into one study, but it rings true at least to my experience in places where I've lived.

Imagine a town without a newspaper.

Enterprise reporting is one of the four key strategies at the Missourian. (The others are immediacy, building community knowledge and creating conversation.)

Right about now, it’s hard to generate much; the newsroom is quieter with just a couple handfuls of student-journalists.

Still, the Missourian manages to produce original reports, such as Tuesday’s piece about a drive to restrict puppy mills in the state.

Over the next few days, a new batch of reporters, producers, designers, photographers and editors will descend on the newsroom and in our town.

I’m sure they will find plenty of original stories out there.

So keep reading a newspaper. It makes you smarter.

Tom