Magazine article Nieman Reports

TV Sitting on Stories to Improve Ratings

Magazine article Nieman Reports

TV Sitting on Stories to Improve Ratings

Article excerpt

Can you imagine having great information about a fabulous story and sitting on it? If you work in television, it's quite possible you've been directed to do just that. The reason: ratings.

A great story out of ratings isn't nearly as important as a great story that hits "in the book." News directors are under incredible pressure to make sure their staffs deliver during the sweeps, the period when viewership is measured. The result: reporters are being forced to sit on a story and save it for sweeps.

I've talked to friends in newsrooms across the country with the same complaint. One had a report on a government official ripping off public funds, another had documentation of corruption in a police department, still another had information on a medical clinic using questionable practices. The reporters wanted the public to know now; news management needed those reporters and the public to wait because those stories would make great "ratings" pieces.

The decision on when a piece runs is no longer determined just by asking is the report concise, clear, and well produced; is it fair, thorough and accurate? There are now more critical questions. What's the lead-in? Where do we place the promotion? Will it deliver better numbers on Monday or Wednesday ? And if a reporter questions the ethics of such a decision, too often they're told they simply don't understand the business or worse yet, "they're not a team player." I'm not yet aware of a law suit where a station has been held liable for withholding important information from the public. But take the example of the medical clinic using questionable health practices. What if someone dies because of those questionable health practices? What if the attorney representing that family finds out your station had the information but didn't broadcast it as soon as it could have because the station was holding it for ratings? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.