Report

Media Coverage of City Governments

  • July 29, 2010

As the media landscape shifts, so too have newsroom resources.  One looming question is where people can find coverage of local news subjects, particularly government and public affairs.

A new comprehensive and highly anticipated university study of local news from communities across the country offers a piece of the answer. The study of 98 major metropolitan cities and 77 suburban communities found that the medium significantly affects how and what local news gets covered--particularly about government. The study funded by the National Science Foundation is one of the broadest based we have seen tackling the question of where government coverage comes from.
Consumers have a wide, growing variety of choices of media today. But the majority of news about local government still comes from newspapers, according to the study byThomas Baldwin, Daniel Bergan, Frederick G. Fico, Stephen Lacy, and Steven S. Wildman, a team of Michigan State University researchers associated with The Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law.

And that is even truer in suburban cities than in larger central metro cities. In suburbs, moreover, most of the news people get about local government comes from weekly papers, not dailies. The medium also made a difference in the level of sourcing and in the diversity of sources offered in news stories. Citizen news sites, while so limited in number that the sample is quite small, had the richest level of sourcing studied and the widest range of types of sources. Daily newspapers came next followed by weekly papers. Citizen blogs had the lowest level of sourcing of any media studied.

These are some of the findings of “News Media Coverage of City Governments in 2009,” which analyzed local news from 389 news outlets serving the 98 central cites and 77 suburban communities from around the country for two days between February 1 and May 2, 2009. The sample drew 6,811 stories and opinion pieces (6,042 from the cities and 769 from the suburbs). The sample included daily and weekly newspapers, broadcast television, cable television news/talk radio, non-news radio, citizen or community news sites, and local citizen blogs.

Read the full report, Media Coverage of City Governments on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.