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UMD Journalism Survey: Maryland News Outlets Are Small, Struggling to Survive

First Study of Its Kind in State Finds News Agenda Driven by Official, Establishment Voices

By Philip Merrill College of Journalism Staff

news stand in a desert

University of Maryland journalism researchers catalogued news outlets throughout Maryland to provide a baseline measure for future studies of the health of the industry.

Photos by Adobe Stock; illustration by Stephanie S. Cordle

More than 60% of Maryland’s news outlets have a news staff of five or fewer; nearly 40% don’t anticipate surviving another two years at current funding levels; and Prince George’s County, the state’s second-most populous county and home to the University of Maryland, is a “patchy news desert,” according to the findings of a new survey by its Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

The Maryland Local News Ecosystem Study identified 176 outlets offering news and information — from TV, radio stations and newspapers to neighborhood blogs and Facebook pages. It also included a thumbnail description and content analysis of those outlets and a comprehensive survey of editors and news directors regarding their needs, challenges, staffing and finances.

The findings of the report were revealed at “Solving the Local News Crisis,” a two-day summit Thursday and Friday about the local news crisis in and around Maryland, which was presented by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Baltimore Banner, Merrill College and UMD’s Maryland Democracy Initiative.

“Local news is vital to an informed citizenry and a healthy democracy,” Merrill College Dean Rafael Lorente said. “The college’s researchers have sounded an alarm for the residents of Maryland. Our local news ecosystem is suffering and needs help now. They have also provided the rest of the country with a cookbook for how to examine their own states.”

According to the survey, one county, Caroline, has no news outlets, while eight counties have three or fewer (including one-person blogs that function as community bulletin boards). Most news outlets have budgets of less than $250,000.

The majority of news stories were triggered by official announcements, while just two in 10 stories were features or enterprise work. Crime was the most covered topic in the state, followed by news about local groups and people, local government, then business and schools.

“Much of the landscape is dotted with news outlets trying to fend for themselves, bootstrapping old technology, whose owners, managers and staff know what they need but recognize they lack the time, resources or expertise to get it,” the report read.

The survey aims to set a baseline, and the intention is to repeat it in future years to track what has changed in the state’s news industry. It was led by Tom Rosenstiel, Eleanor Merrill Scholar on the Future of Journalism and Professor of the Practice at Merrill College, and Jerry Zremski, director of the college’s Local News Network. Students Nira Dayanim, John McQuaid, Loretta Pulwer and Khushboo Rathore were part of the research team. Jenna Cohen ’22 prepared the graphics, while student Joel Lev-Tov prepared the landscape study.

The study was supported by grants from the Andrew and Julie Klingenstein Family Fund through the college’s Local News Network, by Merrill College and by the MDI.



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