The place we call the “fourth estate” is pretty run-down. Its value crashed a while back, and it’s been pretty much in foreclosure. However, whatever bank holds the mortgage must not have enough interest to come around and put it completely out of its misery. Here in one of the electronic cottages on the property, however, we’re doing fine with Food Safety News. We’ve enjoyed enormous growth over five years, and our readers have come to depend on us for the role we fill. Our experience seems to be consistent with the current trend, according to the State of the News Media 2014 report by the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project. Pew has tracked media developments, including ownership, investments and technology, for more than a decade. And this report, different from others, has turned toward just a bit of optimism. “In many ways, 2013 and early 2014 brought a level of energy to the news industry not seen for a long time. Even as challenges of the past several years continue and new ones emerge, the activities this year have created a new sense of optimism – or perhaps hope – for the future of American journalism,” says this year’s report. Yes, Virginia, it says journalism has a future. And while some of us have wondered about that, we are not surprised about what the report has to say about digital journalism, including: 1. More than half of digital news organizations are small like us in terms of permanent staff. 2. Unlike us, more than that are focused only on local news or investigative reporting projects. We go deep on the same topic 365 days a year. The report is not entirely uplifting for journalism. Print journalism’s role continues to decline, with newsroom employment falling to about 38,000, down from 54,000 not so long ago. New jobs in journalism are coming almost exclusively from digital news sites, large and small. Digital news jobs are also about the only way anyone now becomes a “foreign correspondent.” And the 2014 report does a thorough job of documenting the increased migration of print journalists to digital sites, the outcome of which will have to be scored in next year’s report. The U.S. news industry generates $63-65 billion, according to Pew Research. For a “sense of scale,” the report compares that to the $93-billion world video game industry and the $58 billion generated by Google alone. The report also delves into the revenue model for news, noting that almost 70 percent still comes from advertising. The entire 31-page 2014 report can be downloaded here or read on the Pew website along with past reports. Somebody should be keeping track of all this, and we are fortunate that Pew has stepped up to the job. It is well worth everyone’s time to read.