Many of us watch the news quite frequently. Do we know, though, what kinds of stories are covered by TV news? Furthermore, are these stories that do get shown repetitive? I predict that the content in a very high number of news stories will have to do with crime and things that are bad. These stories about crime may have follow-up segments as will other stories, so I would assume that quite a bit of repetitiveness will exist.
I did my study on what stories are in TV news by watching the channel six ten o'clock news during the period of one week. I watched a total of five newscasts from Monday to Friday. I also only watched the newshole, or approximately the first fifteen minutes. I divided the stories into six categories.
I viewed a total of fifty-two stories on channel six over the week . Crime was by far the most popular subject for the news. Twenty of the reports dealt with crime, for a total of about forty percent of the total news time for the week. Monday had crime stories worth two minutes and twenty seconds. None of the crime was violent, for one was about illegal gambling, one about child molestation, and the other about preventing crime in Detroit. I did not figure at this point that crime was going to be very important. The pace, however, picked up.
Tuesday was filled with six crime segments, five of which discussed murder or attempted murder. The apartment fire in West Allis was not reported as a crime, but we were led to believe that it may be, which it was(1:34). The Kennedy assassination tapes showed an old murder, but one regarded as one of the most famous of the century(1:01). O.J. was found not-guilty, though many Americans seem to believe a story about O.J. is a story about a criminal(:30). Fifty-two seconds were spent telling us about the judge who never got a package of explosives that would not have blown up anyway. Forty-eight seconds worth of church vandalism made the news. Finally, a man was killed in Milwaukee, which netted nineteen seconds. There was no follow up to Devil's Night in Detroit, which led me to assume nothing happened.
Wednesday through Friday had a three-series report on stolen vehicles that grossed nearly fifteen minutes over the three days. These were, of course, repetitive. Wednesday and Thursday each had stories about the proposed chain gangs in Wisconsin. Thursday's report was more in-depth. The hijacking of a Miami school bus got one minute on Thursday, while a child neglect case in Waukeshau also had about a minute on Friday. A twenty-one second bite about a memorial to Flight 103 came to us on Friday. Nineteen seconds were used to tell us about a woman's body found in a river. O.J. appeared for the second time this week on Friday(:24) to round up the week in crime.
Ten of the twenty stories about crime dealt in some way with violent crime. Thirteen of the twenty were local happenings. About twenty-seven minutes were spent covering crime during a week of about seventy minutes of programming.
Politics came in second to crime in total time, but lost out to money in total number of stories. Politics were the lead three out of the five days, accounting for about thirteen minutes right there. Two of these leads were about Artison running for mayor, while the other was about Arreola and his chances to become Artison's successor at sheriff. Thursday had another story about the race for mayor(:45), making the total four stories for the week. The vote in Quebec received forty-five seconds of coverage on Monday. Whether or not judges should take endorsement money while campaigning was an issue for a minute on Tuesday. The debate in the state senate over the city residency law got a minute and a half on Thursday. Two-way traffic on Jackson and Van Buren was thirty seconds of a story that had a little to do with politics.
Seven of the eight stories about politics were local. The Quebec story was even presented in a way that told us how the vote would affect us. Three stories were presented about a long-off mayoral race, while none were about this Tuesday's elections. About seventeen and a half minutes out of seventy were spent discussing politics during the week.
Money rounded off the top seventy-five percent of the time for the week and had a total of twelve stories presented. Paying for the stadium was a topic on Monday(2:05), Tuesday(:45), and Friday(:38). Two stories about saving money using coupons appeared on Monday(3:22) and Tuesday(3:27). The Dow Jones and Wisconsin stocks received about twenty seconds in charts four of the five days, with Tuesday being the exception.
Fruit of the Loom layoffs got nineteen seconds on Monday. Tuesday saw a story about local jobs at Capitol Court with the coming of Osco and departure of Target(:48). Contact Six with Tom Hooper helped some lady recycle her glass on Friday(1:40).
Almost fourteen minutes were spent talking about money during the week. All of the stories were local, since the Dow was presented with Wisconsin stocks. Wednesday and Thursday had only the stock exchange stories, while Monday had four stories and about five and-a-half minutes about money.
Accidents and health, ironically, made up a little over six percent of the total time each. Five stories about health were presented during the week. A settlement was reached in a case about breast implants on Monday(:28). The debate over how long a mother should spend in the hospital after giving birth was covered on Tuesday(:46). The new deer disease was the lead story and netted 2:21 on Thursday. Thirty-seven seconds was given in the memory of a boy who died of leukemia on Friday. Thirty-four seconds were used to tell us about an electromagnetic field study in Racine.
The breast implant story was not local, but the rest were. All stories, however, could affect people just about anywhere in the United States. About four minutes and forty seconds were spent on health out of the seventy minutes.
I watched four stories about accidents. There were some injuries on a school bus on Monday(:25). Another accident made the news on Wednesday(:25). Friday had a thirty-five second segment on an apartment fire and story about the most dangerous intersections for accidents in the city(3:04), a lead story. All accidents were local, and about four and-a-half minutes of news time was spent talking about accidents.
War and peace was the only subject that dealt with predominantly international issues, which may explain the mere three stories and less than 1.5 minutes of coverage. The only war talked about was the situation in Bosnia. Even if the vote in Quebec was added, world issues would stand at less than two and-a-half minutes.
Certain issues crossed over a little. Arreola for sheriff and Artison running for mayor had overtones of crime, since their jobs are to fight it. The story about the streets had parts of accidents and money as well as politics. The three stories about auto theft dealt with money as well as crime. The O.J. case has a lot to do with his sports celebrity status, not just crime. Money for the stadium also deals with sports.
The series on saving money by using coupons was about lifestyles and could have been presented at any time. It was therefore soft and evergreen news. Contact Six is an evergreen and soft story in that it does not have to be presented the day it is filmed, nor did the story affect very many people. Also, the three-part series on vehicle theft was an evergreen series because it could have been run on any slow week. Most of the news during the week was fairly hard, however.
Repetition was existent throughout the newscasts. The Dow Jones and Wisconsin stocks had four days of coverage. The stadium issue was mentioned three times. The Bosnian peace talks were presented three times. The race for mayor of Milwaukee took three stories, with Artison being talked about in a fourth, the Arreola story. Car thefts were discussed three times. The coupon story got in twice. O.J. reared his head in the news two times. Chain gangs were a hot topic two days in a row. Nine stories dealt with cars or transportation, though many did not fall in the same categories.
Crime was the most common subject of TV news, as I figured. Repetitiveness existed almost as frequently as did crime during the week. Surprising to me was the fact that crime, politics, and money made up the top 75% of the stories covered. Around fifty percent dealt with things that are considered bad like crime, accidents, and war. I also could find elements of what is bad in the remaining three categories. In all, at least thirty-five of the fifty-two stories had bad events dicussed. I'm glad life isn't always like TV.