By: Editorial Staff
Freedom Forum Media Studies Center study says
television news is more than a headline service sp.
WHEN IT COMES to coverage of many top news stories, television is comparable and sometimes superior to daily newspapers, according to a report by the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University.
“Headlines and Sound Bites ? Is That the Way It Is?” was released earlier this month at the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) convention in Dallas. It was the brainchild of CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, who sits on the center’s advisory board.
The study contradicts long-held assumptions that newspaper coverage is superior in quality and quantity to that of broadcast news.
“Clearly, the idea that TV news is a headline service that must be augmented by newspaper stories is false,” said Everette E. Dennis, the center’s executive director.
Findings were based on content analysis during the month of January of three newspapers ? the New York Times, Atlanta Constitution and Des Moines Register ? and the evening newscasts of the major broadcast networks ? ABC, CBS and NBC.
The study counted the words devoted to national and international coverage ? news common to papers and the networks. Local news, business stories and coverage of the arts weren’t included.
The January period covered a wide range of news stories ? from the Republican takeover of Congress to the major earthquake in Kobe, Japan.
The Freedom Forum found considerable agreement among newspapers and news shows, both in terms of the key news events covered and the degree of coverage these stories got.
In some cases, TV coverage actually exceeded that of newspapers, the study revealed.
During the period examined, there were more words spoken on each of the nightly newscasts about O.J. Simpson’s double-murder trial than there were words devoted to the case in the Register.
Regarding lesser stories, the report found that the newspapers devoted far more space to a broader range of events than did the broadcasts.
The study verified that TV’s major strength is providing up-to-the-minute breaking news, compared to newspapers’ ability to provide information that is timely but more comprehensive.
For example, the daily national and international news hole of an average, midsized newspaper ? such as the Register ? contains twice the number of words as does the entire news hole of the network news programs.
“This report shows that while television fares better than expected, both newspapers and television foster very different profiles overall of what they think is vital about the nation and the world,” Dennis said.
“But, most notably, the study demonstrates that to be informed, one must pay attention to both television and newspaper news.”
The study also found the following:
? The three network newscasts were remarkably similar to each other in structure and content.
? While midsized newspapers were able to cover more than twice as many stories as the networks, the depth of the additional coverage is shallow.
? The stories most likely to disappear from broadcast coverage, given news hole constraints, were continuing international stories.