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Papers Cut Staffs as Readers Look Elsewhere for News

One of America's most powerful newspapers, The Washington Post, has announced it is cutting 80 newsroom jobs, just two years after a previous staff reduction.

The paper's media reporter, Howard Kurtz, writes that the latest contraction is the most recent evidence that the so-called "old" media are in trouble. If the rich Post is slashing staff, imagine the distress at smaller dailies, whose circulations have tumbled as people turn to television for quickie news. Yet viewership for news there is down as well, and local news and discussion have almost disappeared from America's thousands of radio stations. And news magazines -- once fat with in-depth analysis, are now thin and gossipy and losing readers as well.

A new report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism concludes that this is all happening not just because busy Americans prefer to consume their TV news like fast food. It's also about the new media options available. Where earlier generations had little choice but to read the daily paper and watch the two or three available TV newscasts, the report says Americans today can almost tailor-make our news from dozens of sources, spun to suit our political preferences, and delivered by writers or broadcasters we enjoy.

This cafeteria-style shopping for the news we like is costing thousands of traditional newsroom jobs and leaving fewer and fewer real reporters to dig for the carefully researched original stories that are journalism's raw meat. Instead, all sorts of broadcast commentators and online bloggers dive on the morsels of news, cook them to their tastes, and even predigest them for us. And judging by their popularity and the decline of old-line news outlets, we seem to like it that way.