Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Reframing local news: The effects of population density on local TV news in Nebraska
by Anderson, Megan Elizabeth, M.A., Georgetown University, 2011, 121; 1491288
Abstract (Summary)

This study used three designated market areas in Nebraska as a case study for the Great Plains and their local news structure. Using three strategically chosen DMA’s, North Platte, Lincoln & Kearney-Hastings, and Omaha, a range of programming formulas were analyzed. Each is a different size and has a different population density, ranging from the second smallest DMA in the country to the 76-ranked market area.

A content analysis was used to assess what types of stories and content specifics exist in the local news of Nebraska, resulting in the Nebraska Local News Content Study dataset (NLSCS). The NLSCS dataset includes 726 different cases across 48 different variables. The statistical analysis of this data uncovered three trends in newscasts of the Great Plains. First, the lead of local news programs does not differ based on the DMA in question. Rather, there seems to be tested formulas in place for what types of stories catch the audience’s attention. However, the size of a community’s population did matter when analyzing the overall programming formula for the 22-minute newscast. A statistically significant difference between newscasts was found between North Platte and Omaha. The programs of Lincoln & Kearney-Hastings and Omaha, however, had the same baseline programming. The mixture of the two findings suggest that the largest and smallest DMA’s broadcast different information to their constituents.

This study relied on the economic model of the television as the backbone of the research. The triangular relationship that the market creates empowers both advertisers and audiences to affect the content that makes it to air. The pressure put on programmers to please is the greatest during sweeps, when advertising rates are up for consideration. This study produced the finding that programming becomes increasingly local during this period. While this may be due to the congruent nature of the 2010 midterm elections, the analysis suggests that what is the most enticing to audiences during these key periods is local information.

This study suggests that a new layer in the analysis of local news needs to be implemented, that one programming formula does not fit all. Smaller stations in the heart of the Midwest and the Great Plains desire different news than the coastal cities. Information about these booming hubs of industry are already portrayed in the national news, leaving a large void in information about what use to be the “wild west.” Frameworks used to analyze the overall state of news need to take the differing news structures into consideration to correctly portray the news media.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Owen, Diana
Commitee: Farnsworth, Stephen
School: Georgetown University
Department: Communication, Culture & Technology
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: MAI 49/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Journalism, Communication
Keywords: Dma, Framing, Local, Nebraska, News, Population
Publication Number: 1491288
ISBN: 978-1-124-59731-7
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