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JOB CUTBACKS AND LAYOFFS RATED `MOST NEWSWORTHY'

A survey of more than 300 business writers and editors released this week shows that job cutbacks and layoffs at companies hard hit by the U.S. recession are the most newsworthy topics.

The survey, conducted by the research firm Yankelovich, Clancy Shulman of Westport, Conn., found that 80 percent of the business journalists surveyed considered job cutbacks and layoffs very newsworthy, compared to 68 percent in 1987, the date of the last survey.The journalists surveyed were asked to rate the importance of several business topics on a scale ranging from 6 (definitely newsworthy) to 1 (definitely not newsworthy).

The journalists also rated three other topics "definitely newsworthy." They were corporate bankruptcies, the impact of the economic situation on business and corporate mergers and take-overs.

"Over the past year, the American economy has stagnated, and efforts to come to grips with the ensuing recession have been less than successful," the report said. "The implications for business, as well as the media and its coverage of business, are sobering. Companies have sought refuge in Chapter 11 and many publications have gone out of business."

According to the survey, 86 percent cent of the 306 business journalists surveyed believe their audiences have become more interested in business and financial coverage since the onset of the recession. As a result, 57 percent have increased their coverage of business.

The recession also has had a negative effect on the media relations programs of some companies, according to the survey. Forty-five percent of the journalists interviewed believe companies have become less candid with the media since the economy turned sour.

John Gilfeather, executive director of Yankelovich, Clancy Shulman, said one of the most dramatic changes the survey uncovered is the rise of the environment and safety issues as topics of coverage. In 1987, only 38 percent of the business journalists rated the environment as newsworthy, compared to 57 percent of today's journalists.

The survey included 114 business journalists at newspapers and wire services, 83 at news magazines and 109 at television and radio stations.