The number of avenues available to news consumers to learn what’s going on in their communities has never been greater thanks to new media outlets, but what does that translate into in terms of enterprise reporting, fresh content and recycled news?
Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism set out to find these answers by analyzing all of the news outlets in Baltimore over one week. The center’s findings are a mixed bag for traditional news outlets, such as newspapers, TV stations and radio. On the one hand, they accounted for the highest number of stories with fresh content, but on the other hand, by a wide margin, most stories were “essentially repetitive, conveying no new information,” according to the center.
During the week of July 19, 2009, the center found that 80 percent of all stories examined — in both new and traditional media — repeated or repackaged information. Of those with fresh content, 95 percent came from traditional media sources.
Over three days of the study, the center analyzed all local stories produced by 53 local news sources. Of the 715 different stories identified, four local TV newsrooms produced the most content — a total of 291 stories that were broadcast or posted to their Web sites. The five newspapers examined produced 186 local stories.
Local TV broadcasters were the No. 1 source of local stories, with 64 percent of 6 p.m. TV newscast stories devoted to local coverage. Local stories covered in Baltimore newspapers accounted for 53 percent of all articles.
To conduct a more detailed analysis, the center also identified six major local news threads and examined how they were treated by local media. Local newspapers, by far, were the top source of enterprise stories on the six topics. In all, general-interest newspapers produced 48 percent of enterprise reporting on the news topics, while specialty newspapers accounted for 13 percent. Local TV stations and their Web sites accounted for 28 percent, and radio station Web sites were responsible for 7 percent.
During the weeklong period, new media broke two local stories, according to the analysis. In one instance, a newsmaker — specifically, the police — bypassed the media and used a Twitter feed to break a story. In the other, a local blog reported that the state planned to put listening devices on buses. The blog was seen by a newspaper reporter, who generated a story on the subject.
The center also found traditional media outlets turning to new media platforms like the Internet and Twitter to report stories more quickly than would be possible with their normal news cycles. For example, out of all 34 stories reported about a specific shooting, 21 were from local TV Web sites, the center said. In several cases, “the stations post information on the Web that would not resurface until later in the nightly newscast,” the analysis said.