December 12, 2005

EXTRA! EXTRA!

The Examiner

New tabloid breed is more than screaming headlines but could they be blueprint to the future?

The Examiner

So where does the Washington Examiner, the independent tabloid, fall? As mentioned above, it has more pages and more stories than the other tabloids. It also does not make the same appeal to younger readers with cover pictures of celebrities. While its cover often includes a large photograph and teases to inside stories, the majority of those stories are local, national, or international news stories (though it also, at times, features sports figures).

Interestingly, on June 14th 2005, the day all the papers reported on Michael Jackson’s acquittal, the Examiner had a photo and headline of the event (“ Jackson beats rap”) on its cover, but it was not the largest or most prominent photo that day. The Examiner featured instead a photograph of a young Brazilian child eating a mango who was living in an area threatened by the construction of a road (headline: “The simple life threatened”).

Inside Examiner resembles a broadsheet. The pages in the front sections—which lead with local stories—feature fewer ads and more stories. Pages often include 6 or 7 short stories and no ads, or 3 longer stories and no ads. The Examiner also includes fairly lengthy opinion columns and editorials, much longer than those presented in the 3 other tabloids. In fact, the opinion sections of the Examiner, including a two-page section called “American Conversations,” resemble the opinion and editorial sections of many major broadsheets.

How about the content of the stories? Is it as prone to wire copy brevity as the newspaper-owned tabloids? In targeting current readers who want a quicker read, does it choose stories more in line with the broadsheets or the other tabloids? And how much information does it bestow?

Here, as the number outlined higher suggests, the Examiner looks to be something of a hybrid between the traditional broadsheets and youth-oriented tabloids. The stories themselves tend to be longer than the other tabloids but shorter than the broadsheets. More than a third (37%) were 250 words or less but another 25% were over 500 words such as the 1122-word interview of Jack Valenti that ran June 14th 2005. And unlike the other tabloids, the Examiner does more of it own reporting. Close to a quarter of its stories (22%) were staff written, including a local hostage situation which was doubled bylined in the Examiner by two staff reporters. The Express, on the other hand, carried a short AP article about the event. The Examiner also relies on a good amount of freelance reporting—13% of all stories—something that was rare in either the commuter tabloids or the broadsheets.

When it comes to story choice, the Examiner again fell on both sides of the line. On the one hand, just 7% of its stories were about celebrity and entertainment news—closer to the broadsheets. And roughly twice that, 13%, were about government, again similar to the broadsheets. Take, for example, coverage of the launch of an investigation into war crimes in Darfur. In the Examiner, the article was featured on the cover of the June 6th 2005 edition (along with a recent victory by the Washington Nationals baseball team) with a 498 word AP story on page 13. In contrast, the coverage in the other Washington tabloid, the Express, was so slight—a brief AP mention—that it did not even qualify as a full story in this study.

Business affairs coverage in the Examiner, on the other hand, more closely resembled that of the other tabloids (9% versus 6% for the other tabloids and 15% for broadsheets). In most other areas, the paper fell somewhere in between the other two forms.

Is the Examiner more devoted to local affairs? It offered more local coverage than the other tabloids, 32% versus 22% for the others, but still fell short of the broadsheets (53%).

While story choice, localism and reporting style is a crossbreed, however, the quality of knowledge offered appears much more at the level of the other tabloids.

Looking at the number of sources, the Examiner closely resembled the other tabloids. Roughly a quarter (24%) offered no source, another quarter offered just one source and 18% offered four or more.

The Examiner also resembled the other tabloids in its propensity for fact-only stories and for, in stories that do involve controversy, offering mostly one side: 76% did not go beyond the basic facts. Among those with a viewpoint, 49% offered just one side—an even greater percent than among the other tabloids (36%).

While its inclusion of some background information was standard, 92% of all stories, discussion of future implications was, as in the other tabloids, more often absent than not (58% contained not mention of future impact).

Perhaps surprisingly, the Examiner covered younger-aged newsmakers at roughly the same rate as other tabloids (15% versus 16% in other tabloids and 10% in broadsheets.) But they were much less likely to include some explicit mention of the story’s impact on this age group–a mere 2% of their stories.