For this activity, I analyzed a KARE 11 10 O’clock news program. The program broke down as following:
National News: 2 mins 20 sec.
Local News: 3 mins 48 sec.
National National: 1 min
“Coming up next”: 5 sec
Commercial Break: 3 mins
Financial interest piece: 3 mins 20 sec
“Coming up tomorrow”: 8 sec
Local interest piece: 1 min 45 sec
Chatting at news desk: 13 sec
Local weather: 3 min 15 sec
“Coming up next”: 8 sec
Commercial break: 3 mins
Local sports: 5 mins 15 sec
“Coming up next”: 5 sec
Commercial break: 4 mins
National interest piece: 1 min 20 sec
Chatting at news desk: 20 sec
Commercial break: 3 mins
This adds up to:
3: 40 on national news
3:48 on local news
13:00 on commercials
0:26 on “coming up next” segments
6:25 on national and local interest pieces
3:15 on weather
5:15 on sports
0:33 at chatting at the news desk
The news program started off with a controversial story about a book on pedophilia being sold on Amazon.com. It interviewed a couple “experts” on the topic as well as some citizens to get a variety of opinions on the subject. Next, the program switched to local news, spending a great deal of time describing the Wadena girls’ volleyball team going to state after a tornado went through the town earlier this summer. They interviewed the coach, who lost everything in the tornado and a few of the players. After this, less than a minute was spent on more serious news and stories about the Dayton/Emmer recount, Michelle Bachman, a race for mayor of Austin, MN, and news about Target Field were breezed through. Next came about 1 minute for a couple national headlines such as news on NASA’s Discovery launch the stalled cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean. The program then aired a “coming up next segment” and went to break. When it returned, a news story about 401K’s was shown for about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. It detailed what people should do with the money in their 401K’s and interviewing various experts. Following this, a preview to the next day’s segment on a soldier finding a long lost comrade was shown followed by the anchors talking about it being the anniversary of the sinking of the ship Edmond Fitzgerald. This transitioned into weather and eventually another commercial break. Sports was talked about next, focusing on local high school and professional teams. The program aired another “coming up next” segment that talked about the Jersey Shore and went to commercial. It ended with an interest piece about a girl who caught a giant fish in New Jersey.
Overall, I was very surprised about how little news was actually reported on. The program was mostly consumer interest pieces and ads. It seemed like the main agenda of the program was to keep viewers watching rather than reporting the news. For example, the broadcast started off with a highly controversial national story about a book on pedophilia being sold on Amazon. I feel that this story was placed at the beginning of the broadcast not because it was newsworthy, but rather because it is controversial and will get viewers’ attention. Following this, local news began with a “rags to riches” type story about the Wadena volleyball team. A lot of time was devoted to interviews with the coach, who lost her whole farm in a tornado and how the team pulled together after the tragedy to get to where they are now. Finally, after these two stories, more important stories were touched on, such as a local woman being charged with child abuse, a woman killed by a hit and run driver in St. Paul, and news about the Minnesota governor race. After this, it switched to national news, highlighting news about NASA and a stalled cruise ship. However, all of this more important news was squished into about 1 minute and barely any of it was elaborated on. By doing this, the program is shying away from spending too much time on news that might bore or upset viewers. It goes through these stories quickly and then moves on to more feel-good or consumer interest stories that would hold the average viewer’s attention more.
To keep viewers watching, the news program also used a great deal of anticipatory transitions, showing what was coming up next on the program to ensure that viewers would not change the channel during the commercial break. These transitions play to consumers interests or concerns, such as the one previewing an upcoming segment on 401K’s that told the viewer the information in the segment was “everything you should know” about the money in “your 401K.” This makes the viewer feel that if he doesn’t watch the segment, he will miss out on extremely important information and thus lose great amounts of money. This segment was also sponsored by a financial institution, US Bank, which might explain the longer amount of time devoted to this segment than other seemingly more important news stories. The program also used a transition like this before it did its last interest piece on a girl from New Jersey who caught a big fish. The segment played to the audience’s interest and addiction to pop culture, telling the viewer that “news from the Jersey Shore” was coming up next, alluding to the popular reality show Jersey Shore.
In order to help teach students about news programs, I would have each student watch a ½ hour news program and record the order and types of news stories shown. Then, each student would look at a local news paper from that same day (ideally, the news paper would be from the same city that the news broadcast was from). Students would scan through the news paper to find news about the same subjects that was in the news broadcast. Students would record the placement of the news stories in the news paper (i.e. front page, back page, etc) and the amount of space devoted to each story. Students would then write an analysis comparing the most prominent stories and amount of time or space devoted to each story in the newspaper and the news broadcast. I would want them to comment on what they conclude to be the most important news to the broadcast and what news is most important to the newspaper and then speculate on why this is so. Why might a news story make a front page headline when it is buried in a news broadcast? Why would a news broadcast begin with a story that appears below the fold of a newspaper? Overall, I want students to think about what news program’s other agendas might be besides reporting the news.