Study Shows Local TV News doing Less News

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The Pew Research Center’s latest annual "State Of The News Mediareport" is not painting a very good picture.  

The study shows that providers across all platforms became “more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into [their] hands,” Pew’s Project for Excellence In Journalism finds. The shortcomings stood out during the election when “campaign reporters were acting primarily as megaphones, rather than as investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans.”

Local TV newscasts — the nation’s No.1 news source — share some responsibility for the trend. They devoted about 40% of their air time to sports, weather, and traffic, up from 32% in 2005. And just 20% of the stories last year ran at least a minute, down from 31% that lasted that long a decade ago. Still, the total audience for local news shrank last year in all key time slots (except for early morning) and across stations aligned with all the networks, resuming a downward trend that seemed to have ended in 2011. Viewing of the evening newscasts that aired between 5:00 and 7:00 PM at the major network affiliates fell 7% last year. One reason: young people are tuning out. About 28% of adults under 30 regularly watched local news last year, down from 42% in 2006. It’s not entirely the stations’ fault. They draw much of their strength from broadcast network programming, and ratings were down for all of Big Four. That means “local stations’ newscasts find themselves competing for a piece of a shrinking pie.”

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