January 11, 2010

How News Happens

Methodology

The study, How News Happens, involved several different methodological phases.  All aspects of the analysis were performed in house by PEJ staff researchers.

Identifying the Media Universe

The first step was to identify all the local media outlets in the Baltimore, Md. metropolitan area. This occurred in the summer of 2009.

To do this, an audit of media outlets covering the area was conducted. To be included in the sample, an outlet had to be active and produce or disseminate local public affairs news.[1]

That resulted in a list of more than 60 different news outlets and programs. All sources whose content could be captured—obtained in print, saved from a website or recorded digitally—were included in the study.[2]

For outlets with multiple programs or broadcasts, researchers selected appropriate news programs, including both traditional news programming as well as talk or interview programs.

Specifically, PEJ chose news segments—radio headlines and local TV newscasts—that air when most people are getting their news.

For headlines on the radio, that’s the morning rush hour commute.

For local TV news, PEJ captured and analyzed programs of the four Baltimore-area network affiliates in the early evening timeslot.[3] With the exception of the Fox affiliate WBFF—which airs news between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.—the signature newscasts come before the network evening news, between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

In addition to the sample of local TV newscasts, PEJ analyzed two local news and talk programs on Maryland Public Television.[4]

Broad Sample of News Outlets Studied (July 19-25, 2009)

Newspapers (6)

The Baltimore Sun (Frequency Sun.-Sat.; captured every day)
Baltimore City Paper (weekly)
The Baltimore Times (weekly)
The Baltimore Afro American (weekly)
The Towson Times (weekly)
The Washington Post (Local content in the Baltimore edition; captured every day)

Newspaper Websites (4)

The Baltimore Sun (BaltimoreSun.com; captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
Baltimore City Paper (CityPaper.com; captured retroactively)
The Baltimore Afro American (Afro.com; captured retroactively)
The Washington Post (Baltimore-area content captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.) [5]

Niche Print (2)

The Maryland Daily Record (Frequency Mon.-Fri.; captured each weekday)
The Baltimore Business Journal (weekly)

Niche Print Websites (2)

The Maryland Daily Record (MdDailyRecord.com; captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
The Baltimore Business Journal (baltimore.bizjournals.com/Baltimore; captured retroactively)

Local TV Evening Newscasts (4)

(Each weekday newscast downloaded from the TV Eyes Media Center)
WBAL-TV (6 p.m.-6:30 p.m.)
WBFF-TV (5:30 p.m.-6 p.m.)
WJZ-TV (6 p.m.-6:30 p.m.)
WMAR-TV (6 p.m.-6:30 p.m.)

Local TV Websites (4)

ABC2News.com (WMAR ; captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
FoxBaltimore.com (WBFF; captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
WBALTV.com (captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
WJZ.com (captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)

Public TV News Programs (2)

Direct Connection (MPT; captured via DVR July 20, 2009)
State Circle (MPT; captured via DVR July 24, 2009)

Radio News Headlines[6] (7 a.m. drive time) (2)

WBAL (captured each weekday)
WCBM (captured each weekday)

Radio Talk Shows (7)

Ron Smith (WBAL) (online stream captured each weekday)
The Shari Elliker Show (WBAL) (online stream captured each weekday)
The Tom Marr Show (WCBM) (online stream captured each weekday)
Maryland Morning with Sheila Kast (WYPR) (podcasts downloaded for program dates July 20, 21, 22 and 24)[7]
Midday with Dan Rodricks (WYPR) (podcasts downloaded for program dates July 20-23)[8]
C4 Show (WBAL) (online stream captured each weekday)
Marc Steiner (WEAA) (online stream captured July 20-23)
Anthony McCarthy (WEAA) (online stream captured July 24)

Radio Websites (3)

WBAL.com (captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
WCBM.com (captured once daily at 4 p.m.)
WYPR.org (captured retroactively)

New Media/Blogs (10)

Baltimore Brew.com (captured retroactively)
Baltimorecrime.blogspot.com (captured retroactively)[9]
BMoreNews.com (captured once daily at 4 p.m.)
Examiner.com/Baltimore (captured once daily at 4 p.m.)
ExhibitANewsBaltimore.com (captured retroactively)
InsideCharmCity (captured once daily at 4 p.m.)
InvestigativeVoice.com (captured retroactively)
Maryland Politics Watch (captured retroactively)
Twitter.com/BaltimorePolice (captured retroactively)
BaltimoreSpectator.blogspot.com (captured retroactively)

Capture and Content Retrieval

Researchers captured and saved all news content from July 19 through July 25, 2009.

Hard copies were used for all newspapers that were available in print in the Baltimore area.

Using automated software, radio programs were captured through online streams of the shows. The purpose of this method is to ensure that we have a version of the program in a manner that represents the way a typical listener would hear the program with commercials and newsbreaks. WYPR could not be captured using this method. PEJ coded talk shows from podcasts made available on the station’s website. The station does not post digital copies of its daily local headlines.

Local TV newscasts were downloaded and digitally archived from the subscription-based online media monitoring database TV Eyes.

All content was then coded by a member of PEJ’s staff who watches or listens to the archived version of the program.    

The frequency of website captures was determined by how often content was updated and how news stories were archived. Websites that updated content frequently throughout the day were captured twice daily at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Websites that updated less frequently but did not archive news stories were captured once a day. Blogs and other sites that archived all content were captured retroactively the week of July 27.  

First Level of Analysis

An initial content analysis was conducted on all local stories that appeared on July 20, July 22 and July 24. For this analysis, basic information about each story was recorded. [10] The main variables included:

Housekeeping Variables
Story Date
Source
Placement
Print Only Variable: Story Word Count
Broadcast Only Variables:
Broadcast Start Time
Story Start Time
Story End Time
Headline

Main Variables

Geographic Focus (The geographic area to which the topic of the story is relevant in relation to the location of the news source)
Format (Measures the type and origin of stories.  It designates, at a basic level, whether the news story is a product of original reporting, or drawn from another news source. It delineates stories within the publication or broadcast, while measuring the stories type and origin.
Story Describer (A short description (approximately 5 – 15 words) of the content of each story)
Broad Story Topic (Determines the type of broad topic categories addressed by a story. The topic involves the issue/event being covered)
 
Analysis of Six Main Story Threads

The third phase of analysis was a close study of six major narratives identified by PEJ. For this element of the study, researchers identified all stories on the specified topics throughout the week (July 19-25, 2009).[11] The secondary analysis included coding to derive more information about the origination, enterprise and sourcing of individual stories. They include:

Trigger (Designates the action, event or editorial decision that makes this news, thus triggering its publication. What was it that caused a story to be published on this particular occasion and this particular day?)
Cited Person(s) (The first five named human sources—no organizations as sources)
Level of Involvement of Cited Person (specifies the level of involvement of a source with a news story)
Expertise/Position (The expertise/position of the highest level source in a news story)
Newness (Indicates how much information, if any, has been added to a particular storyline)

 


Footnotes

 

1.Outlets or programs that specialize in sports or arts and entertainment coverage were excluded from the study.

2. Outlets not included in the study were either inactive or could not be captured. 

3. More recent data for 2009 show that late night newscasts had slightly bigger audiences than for early evening newscasts.

4. Direct Connection and State Circle

5. Stories from this source were analyzed in the study of the six main story threads but were not included in the first level of analysis because no new relevant content was produced within the specified time frame.

6. PEJ could not capture radio news headlines from WYPR due to technical issues.

7. Due to technical issues, this program was coded from a podcast available on WYPR’s website.

8. Due to technical issues, this program was coded from a podcast available on WYPR’s website.

9. A post from this source was referenced in the study of the six main story threads but was not included in the first level of analysis because no new relevant content was produced within the specified time frame.

10. Codes for this study were adapted from the PEJ News Coverage Index.

11. Stories that fell outside of the broader three-day sample were coded for housekeeping and main variables as listed above.

 

Cite this publication: Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project Staff. “How News Happens.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (January 11, 2010) http://www.journalism.org/2010/01/11/how-news-happens/, accessed on July 23, 2014.