If You Watch FIVE HOURS of Cable News, Expect to Find ONE MINUTE of Coverage Devoted to Either Science or the Environment

Pew has released its annual "State of the Media" report with detailed summaries of their content analysis on each sector of the news media. I will be blogging about this report over the next couple of weeks, but for now, consider one of the more interesting findings from the analysis of cable news coverage, a finding that underscores the problem of choice for news audiences I have detailed on this blog before. Based on their analysis of the combined year long content at the cable news outlets, Pew concludes:

Collectively, the broad range of domestic issues including the environment, education, transportation, development, religion, domestic terrorism, health care, race -- everything but immigration -- made up 13% of the time on cable (compared with 26% on network evening news). The three topics of celebrity, crime and disasters, in contrast, accounted for 24% of cable's time.

To put that into perspective, if one were to have watched five hours of cable news, one would have seen about:

* 35 minutes about campaigns and elections
* 36 minutes about the debate over U.S. foreign policy
* 26 minutes or more of crime
* 12 minutes of accidents and disasters
* 10 minutes of celebrity and entertainment

On the other hand, one would have seen:

* 1 minute and 25 seconds about the environment
* 1 minute and 22 seconds about education
* 1 minute about science and technology
* 3 minutes and 34 seconds about the economy
* 3 minutes and 46 seconds about health and health care

More like this

Are the remaining 169 minutes just advertisement breaks ?

Happily, major network news (evening shows, at least) look a bit better. Comparison is here, along with online & newspapers (scroll down to "Topics on Different Media"): http://www.stateofthenewsmedia.org/2008/narrative_networktv_contentanal…

e.g., "There was about half the percentage of crime coverage on nightly news as on cable (6% vs. 13%), more than twice the percentage of economic/business coverage (7% vs. 3%), about a fifth of the celebrity and entertainment coverage (1% vs. 5%)."

Heck with cable news -- let's take on the real powerbrokers: get more science on Youtube, people!

You could use science markets to make science newsworthy. This is where people bet on science. Science stories could then be reported like business stories. The story could sound like this "the market odds for 5 degrees global warming in 50 years today moved up 2% to 95%"

This isn't that shocking. News in the UK is mainly sex, war, money... ITV being the more emotionally accusing than the others which remain neutral.

Perhaps this can be correlated to the observation that every journalism major I ever met thought that math and science were social diseases

Sigmund- would you find that surprising? Cable news isn't about journalism- it's about making money. And in Fox News' case, making money and influencing public opinion. Of course commercials account for a significant percent of the time.

Well, commercials and overly-dramatic music and flashy graphics with silly titles such as "War on Terror" and "Race to the White House".

Living in Europe I guess I'm just not used to that amount of advertisements. I actually hardly ever watch TV these days, I go straight for internet based news sites or streaming TV shows. I do understand what you mean about cable TV being a business, though. Just check what the highest rated news story on CNN is at the moment - the Elliot Spitzer call girl did a 'Girls Gone Wild' video when she was 18.
I presume they file this under 'politics'.

so sad...

By Brian Kuebler (not verified) on 19 Mar 2008 #permalink

"Race for the White House" is C-SPAN's long-time campaign umbrella title--you're calling *them* "overly-dramatic" and "flashy," Michael?

By Mark Jeffries (not verified) on 19 Mar 2008 #permalink

watch 5 hours of cable news and expect to see 0 (zero) minutes of informative content

Given the quality of reporting on science I'd rather they not even try. Better to give no information than to give disinformation.

I am not surprised or upset by the fact that Science as it is today doesnt receive more air time. Because many things that are reported "in the name" of science arent even factual. Take for example "Global warming". Back in the 70's we were being told by the supposed experts that we were heading into a second ice age. Now just thirty years later we are concerned about a global warmup? I must have missed the ice age again. The sceintists cant even agree on things so why should we listen. I agree we need to do our best on keeping the earth clean, but the reasons for warming and cooling are being misstated. Investigate for yourselves. If the warming has to do with "green house gases" why then were the polar ice caps of Mars receeding at the same time? Do we also effect the entire solar system? If you would further investigate you may find the real reason behind the changes. Maybe sun spot activity. There is more documented evidence for that reasoning. The temperatures this last year seem to be cooler and it is strange that it happens to be on a down cycle of sun spot activity. Hmmmmm. If the truth were to be told or a balance approach to what is considered to be sceintific "fact" would be air maybe we as the public would pay more attention therefore demanding more air time. Food for thought.

Your figures add up to just under two hours of all those types of content. The rest is either fiction (movies, sitcoms, dramas, etc) and advertising, of which it would be interesting to know how much of that is advertising. I would expect probably 1.5 hours or more.

I haven't double-checked this, but I think a half-hour program contains under twenty minutes of content and then 10 minutes or more of commercials.

That means TV is roughly one-third commercials, one-third fictional content, and one third non-fiction content. If science has one minute out of 300 (5 hrs), that would mean science gets a whopping 1/3 of 1% of time on TV.


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