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For the 3rd year in a row now the GR Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID) has completed a 30-day study of local TV news election coverage. The following are the major findings of the study:
- All 3 TV stations failed to provide adequate information to viewers that would allow them to make an informed vote.
- Of the combined 45 minutes and 29 seconds of air time devoted to the primary elections, only 2 minutes and 21 seconds had candidates speaking, and 56 seconds of that total was about issues.
- For every election story given by the 3 stations combined there were 8.3 crime stories.
- Fox 17 had as many stories in the 30-day period on a Jerry Springer contestant accused of murder (5) as they did election stories (5).
- Channel 13 had more stories on the Mackinac Island power outage (8) than they did on the election (7).
- Channel 8 had almost as many stories about a shooting outside a Walker Street Party store (9) as they did about the elections (11).
- Of the 5 Kent County Commission races only 1 received any coverage – the Turner/Mayhue race.
- Comparatively, the Grand Rapids Press gave more stories about the elections (33) than all three stations combined (23).
- The election story with the highest combined air-time was the Hudsonville Alcohol ballot proposals – 9 minutes and 57 seconds.
2000 Primary Election News Coverage
(July 10 – August 7; 30 days prior to Primary Election Day)
|WOOD TV8||7/11||FH School Bond||:24|
|7/27||Ottawa Co. Ballot Int.||3:00|
|7/27||Ottawa Co. Ballot Int.||3:00|
|WZZM 13||7/11||Kent District Library||:37|
|WXMI Fox 17||7/25||Sheriff Forum||:30|
|8/2||Kent Library Mileage||2:18|
|Total time all 3 stations||45:29|
|Ch .8||Ch. 13||Ch. 17||Total|
|# of crimes stories||76||74||43||193|
|Walker St. Party Store||9||7||2||18|
|Jerry Springer/Contestant Murder||2||1||5||8|
|Mackinac Island Power||8||8||2||18|
|Lead Election stories||0||1||0||1|
|Total Election stories||11||7||5||23|
|Crime Story/Election Story Ratio||7/1||10.5/1||8.6/1||8.3/1|
|Channel||Candidate Voices||Public Voices|
|13 – Hudsonville alcohol||11 sec. – against
10 sec. – for
|8 – Turner/Mayhue||Mayhue – 29 sec. (0 issues)
Turner – 29 sec. (0 issues)
|8 – Polkton Twp.||9 sec. – against
13 sec. – against
11 sec. – for
|8 – Holland annexation||12 sec. – for
20 sec. – against
|17 – Holland annexation||19 sec. – for
9 sec. – against
5 sec. – for
|17 – Kent Lib.||15 sec. – for
7 sec. – for
10 sec. – for on 1
undecided on 2
|8 – Steele/Frushour||Steele – 42 sec. (27 issues)
Frushour – 61 sec. (29 issues)
|17 – Hudsonville Alcohol (all on A)||no – 14 sec.
yes – 6 sec.
no – 8 sec.
yes – 12 sec.
|17 – Hudsonville Alcohol||A – yes – 17 sec.
B – yes – 21 sec.
|8 – Kent Library||yes – 22
yes – 46
|Total time/Candidate Voices – 2:21(all on ch. 8)|
|Total time/Candidates on issues – :56 seconds (all on ch. 8)|
|Paid Ads for local Primary Races/Ballot proposals (during newscasts)|
|Channel 13 – 16 for Zemaitis (Kent Co. Probate Judge)|
|Channel 8 – 0|
|Channel 17 – 0|
|GR Press Primary Election articles|
|7/17||Ottawa Co. 89th St. Rep.||29/B1-2|
|7/20||Allegan Co. Sheriff||17/B3|
|7/23||Kent Co. Sheriff||84/G1|
|7/25||local judicial races||17/B1-2|
|7/26||Kent Sheriff forum||12/B1-2|
|7/26||Gillem yard signs||12/B1-2|
|7/26||Voter Guide 20 pages content|
|7/27||16, 17 & 19 Co. Comm.||26/B1-2|
|7/28||Allegan Co. Sheriff forum||15/C3|
|7/29||$$ in campaigns||36/A1,4|
|7/29||State House race complaints||6/A3|
|7/30||Kent Probate Court||42/A25-26|
|7/31||Wyoming District Judge||31.5/B1-2|
|8/1||Ottawa drain comm.||18/B3|
|8/2||Ottawa Co. Comm.||20/B3|
|8/3||Koetje/Karel State Rep.||19/B1-2|
|8/3||$$ raised by GOP/Dems for State House races||13/B4|
|8/4||Wyoming District Court||14/C2|
|8/4||Allegan Co. Sheriff||16/C2|
|8/4||Polkton Twp. Ballot||15/C3|
|8/6||Kent Dist. Library||52/A1, 23|
|8/6||Kent Co. Sheriff||30/A25-26|
|GR Press Editorial Endorsements|
|7/10||Stelma for Sheriff and Yes on Kent Library|
|7/30||State House – Koetje, Newell, Vander Klock & DeVouyst|
|8/1||County Clerk – Hollinrake, County Comm. – Turner, Shook, White, Mast & Morgan|
|8/3||Holland Annexation, Senior Millage, Spring Lake Twp., Hudsonville Alcohol, Holland Twp., Park Twp.|
|8/4||Kent Twp. Proposals|
|8/6||short summary of most on the ballot|
|7/26||Voter Guide – Krupp, full page & 1/2 pg. – Nevins, full page – Stelma, full page & 1/2 pg. – Schaefer, 1/2 pg. – Zemaitis, 1/2 pg. – Mast, 1/4 pg. – White, 1/4 pg. – Sherman, 1/4 pg. – VanderVeen, 1/4 pg. – Hollinrake, 1/2 pg. – TerMaat, 1/4 pg. – Mason, 1/4 pg. – Hillary, 1/2 pg. – Kelly, 1/2 pg. – Bowler, 1/4 pg.- Miller, 1/4 pg. – Winther, 1/2 pg. – Gillem, 1/8 pg. – York, 1/8 pg. – Rolls, 1/8 pg. – Baxter, full page|
|8/2||Bowler/Probate Judge A4-1/8pg|
|8/3||Bowler/ A14 1/8pg., Stelma/ BB2 1/4pg., Hillary/ BB3 1/8pg., White/ BB4 1/8pg.|
|8/4||Bowler C4 1/8 pg.|
|8/5||Bowler A6 1/8 pg.|
|8/6||Krupp, 3/4 pg. A13 – Bowler, 1/8 pg. A16 – Hillary, 1/8 pg. A20 – Stelma, 3/4 pg. A22 – Baxter, 1/2 pg. A26|
|8/7||York, 1/3 pg. A2 – Hollinrake, 1/2 pg. A5 – Hillary, 1/2 pg. A6 – Timmers, 1/8 pg. A9 – White, 1/8 pg. B3 – Bowler, 1/8 pg. B3, VanderKlok, 1/8 pg. B5|
Local TV News Election Coverage Principles
- Inform viewers/voters of all candidates, races, ballot proposals – and give them information on the issues not just on candidate personalities or where candidates are or what they might do.
- Any and all race/ballot proposals could be given at least some coverage, even if it is just a mention of who is running or what the proposal is.
- Follow the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligation of Digital Television Broadcasters (also known as the Gore Commission), where for 30-days prior to elections broadcasters provide 5 minutes per night of candidate centered news. (see Alliance for Better Campaigns www.bettercampaigns.org )
- Cover third/independent party candidates.
- When showing presidential polls on the channel or web-site, give percentages for both Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan.
- Viewers could be given information about voter guides that have been published.
- Produce video Voter Guides featuring all candidates in all races for multiple replays.
- All candidate forums could be announced for several days prior to the event.
- Candidate forums could be broadcast live or re-broadcast at a future time that would be announced.
- 5% of the money made from campaign ads could be donated by the stations to an independent, non-partisan organization to fill the void left by the League of Women Voters or to help resurrect the League.
- Financial funding of candidates should be reported on before and after all races. (How much and from what sources)
- Explore in more detail reasons for low voter turnout.
- Use station web sites for more detailed coverage.
- Operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.