Local Hopefuls Find They Must Pay to Play Politics on TV; Receive Little Coverage in newscasts.(NATION)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 17, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Local Hopefuls Find They Must Pay to Play Politics on TV; Receive Little Coverage in newscasts.(NATION)


Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Nine seconds - it's just enough for name, rank and serial number, perhaps.

A new study finds that local political candidates get just 9 1/2 seconds on camera when - and if - they get a little face time on television.

After analyzing 1,227 hours of news programming from 50 markets around the country, University of Wisconsin researchers found that those partisan hopefuls have gotten short shrift.

"Campaign stories are scarce, and only a fifth of them include candidates talking," the survey noted. "When they do speak, candidates talk for 9.5 seconds, on average."

Researchers sat through 2,454 half-hour evening news broadcasts from Sept. 18 to Oct. 4; they found that 1,311 of the broadcasts carried no campaign coverage whatsoever.

Stations that did air political stories allotted them an average 80 seconds, heavy on the file footage and analysis. Fewer than 20 percent of the stories contained interviews with the candidates.

Governors have more cachet than lawmakers, it seems. Gubernatorial races made up 48 percent of the coverage, while 17 percent went to U.S. Senate contests and 5 percent to the races for House of Representatives.

The remaining 30 percent focused on state or local elections, or on ballot initiatives.

"Local TV news gives cold shoulder to political candidates," the study concluded.

The study doesn't sit well with Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA). She faulted the researchers for analyzing broadcasts that aired more than a month before election week, when the public's interest is at its peak.

"Averaging out numbers doesn't really tell you anything either.

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