The news about news media.

Part 1: Bad news for newspapers and news magazines.

A 2008 WeMedia/Zogby Interactive poll found that 67% of Americans think traditional journalism is out of touch with what they want from the news, and two-thirds are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities.

The survey is just one of many signs that the legacy news media are in bad shape. Newspaper and news magazines are losing audience and advertisers, and there's no turnaround in sight.

There are serious consequences for advertisers. The traditional print news media were once effective reach vehicles. An ad in all of the three newsweeklies would reach half the influentials in the country. A single ad in a local daily newspaper could get the word to just about everybody in town.

Those days are long gone. Today, newspaper and news magazines are niche buys. They're effective media to reach older, educated, affluent audiences, with little or no spillover into younger demographics.

Publishers have slanted newspaper sections toward teens to try to capture the long-lost under-50 demographic. News magazines have become feature-story focused. Both are repurposing material online in a rear-guard holding action they seem to think will turn the tide.

But the tide will almost certainly swamp them. Pretty much as it did King Canute when he commanded the incoming waves to recede a millennium ago. Except maybe the publishers won't get their feet wet during their exercises in futility.

Ink-on-paper local daily newspapers have gone from bad to worse over the last few years. In a May, 2008 Nielsen study, only 11.3% of respondents named newspaper as their primary source of news. That put newspaper in fourth place after broadcast TV, cable TV and the internet.

A little over a month ago The New York Times ran an article headlined "Most Papers Again Report Big Declines in Circulation." The first decline they reported was their own: circulation down 3.9% in the last quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008 versus the same quarters a year ago. They also noted that The Dallas Morning News lost 10.6%, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was down 8.5%, The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune down 6.7%, The New York Daily News down 2.1%, The New York Post down 3.1% and Newsday down 4.7%.

Those drops were from an already shrunken circulation base. The Audit Bureau of Circulation reported that 2007 newspaper circulation was down 2.5% daily and 3.5% Sundays, following a similar drop in 2006.

Not surprisingly, newspapers' advertising revenues are also down. Nielsen Monitor Plus reports that local newspapers ad revenues declined 5.4% in 1st quarter 2008 versus 2007. National newspaper shrunk 6.2%, free-standing inserts were off 4.9% and local Sunday supplements were down 13.5%. The Wall Street Journal reported Gannett's May 2008 newspaper ad revenue was 14.3% lower than May 2007. McClatchy's January-to-May newspaper ad revenue dropped 15% and The New York Times Company had a 12% advertising revenue decrease.

There have been job cuts at virtually every American newspaper. The Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Tampa Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Hartford Courant and even The New York Times all announced sizable staff reductions. Those cuts, and more at newspapers all across the country, have eliminated 5,383 jobs in just the first six months of 2008.

The layoffs may well be part of a newspaper death spiral. Leaner newsroom staffs mean fewer stories covered and less depth in the news. That erodes newspapers' advantage over other legacy news media and online news providers. The lower value perception caused by less news and less detail in the stories will almost certainly accelerate reader defections. That, in turn, will lead to even more cuts, and the cycle could continue until the last metro daily disappears.

There are bright spots in the newspaper picture. USA Today's circulation grew by 0.3, and The Wall Street Journal was up 0.4% in the last quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008. The Nielsen Monitor Plus report showed national Sunday supplement ad revenue up 19.2%. And The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette actually increased its circulation 1.2% over the last two years by the simple expedient of not giving away its content online.