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Nov 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The face of television news has not changed much despite the vast changes in this country over the past year-from the terrorist attacks to the war on terror to the slumping economy and business scandals. Those are the findings of the final year of a five-year study on local television by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a think tank affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Crime and national defense coverage rose while coverage of other issues, including the economy, sank. Coverage of homeland security accounted for 1 percent of all stories.
“Journalism if nothing else is a reflection of its time,” Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said. “We are a different country now. The world has changed and local news has not. By definition I think that’s a failure.” Part of the problem is that a local TV reporter is now asked to produce 1.8 stories a day, up from 1.4 five years ago. Stations have needed to cut back in light of the tough economy, but by eliminating reporter jobs they risk alienating viewers to maintain profit margins, he said. “Thinning the product and losing viewers is a bad recipe for the long term,” he said. In 1998, one of every 60 stories was a station-initiated investigation, a number that has dropped to one in every 150 today. The good news is that the sparse investigative and enterprise work that is still done is better than five years ago, the study said.
As part of the study Boston’s NBC affiliate WHDH-TV, owned by Sunbeam Television, was named tops in local news in the 17 local markets studied for its 6 p.m. newscast.
KUSA top o’ the morning
Denver’s NBC affiliate Gannett Broadcasting’s KUSA-TV owns the morning. Its a.m. show captures 105,000 of the area’s 236,000 morning news viewers during its 5 a.m.-to-7 a.m. broadcast, the largest share of any top 20 station, according to Nielsen Media Research data provided by the station. In October the station garnered a 7.8 rating and 36 share for the 6 a.m. hour, compared with a 2.1 rating/10 share for CBS’s owned-and-operated KCNC-TV and a 2.2 rating/10 share for McGraw-Hill’s ABC station KMGH-TV.
WBBM ousts Breen
WBBM-TV, Chicago’s CBS owned-and-operated station, fired medical reporter Dr. Michael Breen last week, alleging he had recycled voice-overs in different stories, according to the Chicago Tribune. Mr. Breen was quoted in the paper saying he plans to sue over what he claims is an unfair attempt to avoid paying him for the last three years of a four-year contract. A station spokesperson would only say Dr. Breen no longer worked there.