Academic research can be, well, academic: hard to read and even harder to understand. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless. On the contrary, research on television news can offer practical tips for improving what goes on the air. With that in mind, we’ve produced this summary of more than a decade worth of research that may have practical applications in the newsroom.
- Pictures and images: How images affect credibility, memory, attitude
- Audio-video redundancy: When words and pictures match
- Editing pace and style: Speed of editing, cutting within sequences
- Production techniques: Use of graphics, tabloid features, live reporting
- Story structure: Narrative style, language, repetition
- Newscast structure: Story placement, formats
- Teases, bumpers and recaps: Effect of devices on memory and understanding
- Disclaimers, labeling, exemplification: Effect on credibility and attitude
- Race and gender: Effect of images and language
- Management: Diversity, change, salaries
- Online news: Content, usage
- Other studies: Books, and research before 1985.
Bracken, C.C. (2006). Perceived source credibility of local television news: The impact of television form and presence. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 50, 723-741.
This experimental study of local television viewers found a significant relationship between a TV picture’s image quality and audience perceptions of news credibility. Participant groups found news anchors – male and female – to be more credible in high-definition (HDTV) format than on a standard-definition (NTSC) screen. Viewers’ sense of immersion in the video apparently increased credibility.
Brosius, Hans-Bernd (1993). The effects of emotional pictures in television news. Communication Research, 20, 105-124.
This study found that stories with pictures were remembered better than those without. The quality of the pictures (partially or completely illustrating the story) did not matter. However, when the pictures were emotional (all negative emotions) memory for the stories was worse.
Brosius, Hans-Bernd (1989). Influence of presentation features and news content on learning from television news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 33, 1-14.
This study manipulated audio repetition, audio/video redundancy, the presence or absence of video, and the length of the newscast. Placing a still graphic that relates to the news story topic behind the anchor will substantially improve memory for the story although it does not improve memory for detailed facts or comprehension of the story.
Cooper, S.D. (2000). An effect of the medium in news stories: “The pictures in our heads.” New Jersey Journal of Communication, 8(2), 173-188.
This study used an experimental design to compare audience response to TV news vs. print. Four television news stories were recorded off-air, then the narrations were transcribed to form a print news story containing the same words. The study showed some evidence that viewers of television news are inclined to judge actors in the stories as members of categories or groups, whereas readers of print news tend to be more specific.
Fahmy, S., & Johnson, T. J. (2007). Show the truth and let the audience decide: A web-based survey showing support among viewers of Al-Jazeera for use of graphic imagery. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 51, 245-264.
This web-based survey of predominantly Muslim (95%) viewers addressed questions about the use of graphic imagery in covering the war in Iraq. Al-Jazeera viewers favored more freedom of expression for Middle Eastern countries, and showed greater acceptance of graphic imagery. More so than viewers of national Arab media and Western media like CNN, they felt violent pictures accurately represented the atrocities of war and should be televised as news.
Graber, D. (1990). Seeing is remembering: How visuals contribute to learning from television news. Journal of Communication, 40, 134-155.
This study showed that only a small amount of the information contained in a news story is remembered. Somewhat more visual information is remembered than verbal information – even though the verbal information may be the important part of the story while the visual information is often only mildly related to the topic of the story. Visuals improve memory and comprehension of the stories compared to an audio only presentation.
Grimes, T. (1990). The encoding of TV news messages into memory. Journalism Quarterly, 67(4), 757-766.
This study suggests that viewers blend the meaning of the video and audio of a TV news story into a unitary long-term memory. Information that is vague in the audio channel, which is supplemented by specific visual information, is “remembered” by study participants as having been stated in the audio. The opposite is also true: Meaningful information in the audio channel that is accompanied by vague, non-specific video is “remembered” by viewers as being in the visual channel.
Huh, J., & Reid, L. N. (2007). Do consumers believe advertising is negatively affected when placed near news perceived as biased? Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 29 (2), 15-26.
This study looked at whether suspect advertising in a newscast would affect news credibility. Most respondents said they did not think so. They also did not believe that viewers would hold negative views toward commercials appearing after distorted content (i.e. biased news coverage). Those with lower levels of education were more likely to think that commercials would be “tarnished by the same brush” if placed next to biased coverage.
Lang, A., Newhagen, J., & Reeves, B. (1996). Negative video as structure: Emotion, attention, capacity, and memory. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 40, pp. 460-477.
Adding compelling negative video to news stories increases attention, mental effort, recall for the story topic, recognition for information occurring during the negative video, and negative emotional response of the viewer. However, it decreases recognition for information that precedes the negative video. This study did not look at audio and video information separately.
Lang, A., Potter, R.F., & Bolls, P. (1999). Something for nothing: Is visual encoding automatic? Media Psychology, 1(2), 145-164.
Provides evidence that encoding visual images requires little or no mental effort and is virtually unaffected by increasing the complexity of the message. On the other hand, verbal recognition appears to require controlled processing resources (mental effort) and is severely impaired by increasing message complexity.
Newhagen, J. & Reeves, B. (1992). The evening’s bad news: Effects of compelling negative television news images on memory. Journal of Communication, 42(2), 25-42.
Memory for visual information in newscasts is improved during and following compelling negative images in news stories. However, memory for audio information before and during the compelling negative images and visual information before the compelling negative images is worse.
Smith, S.L., & Wilson, B.J. (2000). Children’s reaction to a television news story: The impact of video footage and proximity of the crime. Communication Research, 27(5), 641-673.
This experiment assessed children’s reactions to particular features of television news. Children including 6- and 7-year-olds, and 10- and 11-year-olds, viewed one of four versions of a news story about gang violence. Older children were more likely to be frightened by and perceive themselves personally vulnerable to a story about local as opposed to a non-local crime. In contrast, the video footage unexpectedly decreased fear responses among children in both age groups.
Brosius, Hans-Bernd, Donsbach, W., & Birk, M. (1996). How do text-picture relations affect the informational effectiveness of television newscasts? Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 40, 180-195.
This study compared stories where the video illustrated the audio, was mildly related to the audio, was not related to the audio, or was absent (audio only). Results showed that free and cued recall was better for the highly redundant condition compared to all other conditions. There were no significant differences between the other conditions, however the direction of the means showed that mildly related video was better than discordant video, and no video. No video was slightly better (for free recall) than discordant video. Evaluation measures showed that subject preferred the highly and mildly related versions and audio only versions to the video discordant versions of the stories.
Brosius, Hans-Bernd (1989). Influence of presentation features and news content on learning from television news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 33, 1-14.
This study manipulated audio repetition, a/v redundancy, the presence or absence of video, and the length of the newscast. A/V redundant stories were not remembered more than stories where the audio and video were not redundant, however recognition for details in the A/V redundant stories was better than recognition for details in the non-redundant stories.
Crigler, A. N., Just, M., Neuman, W. R. (1994). Interpreting visual versus audio messages in television news. Journal of Communication, 44(4), 132-149.
This study compares audio, video, and audio/video news stories on comprehension, memory, and emotional responses. It finds that a/v presentations elicit the greatest emotional arousal. Audio only and a/v stories are understood the best. Visual only are understood the worst. However, the coherence of the narrative is an important variable. If the audio narrative is well constructed it may do as well as the a/v story in memory. A/V works best when the audio and video are parallel. A strong video narrative MAY overwhelm a weak audio narrative.
Drew, Dan G. & Grimes, T. (1989). Audio-Visual Redundancy and TV News Recall. Communication Research, 14(4), 452-461.
A comparison of stories with high and low audio-video redundancy found that stories with high a/v redundancy have higher verbal and lower visual memory, while stories that are low in a/v redundancy show higher visual memory and lower verbal memory. In addition, high a/v redundancy improved comprehension for the stories.
Fox, Julia R. (2004). A Signal Detection Analysis of Audio/Video Redundancy Effects on Television News Video. Communication Research 31(5), 524-536
This study, using signal detection methods, found participants were better able to discriminate information from news stories with redundant visuals than from news stories with dissonant visuals. This finding is further evidence that the robust audio/video redundancy effect in the literature reflects differences of memory strength and not simply a shift in decision criterion.
Grimes, T. (1991). Mild auditory-visual dissonance in television news may exceed viewer attentional capacity. Human Communication Research, 18, 268-298.
This study manipulated audio-video redundancy (none, medium, and high) and measured audio and video recall for news stories. The results showed that both audio and visual recognition are better in the high redundancy and medium redundancy condition than in the no-redundancy condition. In the no-redundancy condition visual recognition is better than audio. Audio recognition is harmed more than video recognition by decreasing redundancy.
Grimes, T. & Drechsel, R. (1996). Word-picture juxtaposition, schemata, and defamation in television news. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 73(1), 169-180.
Gender stereotypes (i.e., “schemata”) can distort viewer memories of TV news stories. When females appeared in non-stereotypical professional roles, and then men appeared in the same news story, those men were consistently remembered by study participants as holding the professional roles that the females in the story actually held. Such role misattributions can lead to legal problems for stations. The researchers suggest that when females are portrayed in non-traditional roles, editors should try to separate them — in time and in space — from males who appear in the same story. And if it’s not editorially necessary to show men in the story, it may be best to leave them out.
Johnson, L., & Geske, J. (2008). Packing a Punch: Audio-Visual Redundancy and News Recall. Paper presented to the Annual Convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), Chicago, IL.
Findings from this experiment suggest that audio-visual redundancy in TV news stories reduces the resources required to process information. This increased immediate as well as delayed recall for the facts presented in the news story. Audio-visual redundancy helped recall more for hard news stories than for emotional feature stories.
Lang, A. (1995). Defining audio/video redundancy from a limited capacity information processing perspective. Communication Research, 22, 86-115.
This study reviews the literature on a/v redundancy and concludes that, in general, a/v redundancy can improve memory, especially for the verbal content of the newscast, if the story is not too complex (either in terms of content or structure).
Newhagen, John E. (1995). Effects of verbal and nonverbal aural redundancy on memory and attention for television. Paper presented to the annual meeting of the International Communication Association.
This study suggests that non-verbal audio effects capture attention and increase mental effort, however, this may not improve audio recognition or recall. Pictures may result in less mental effort, but visual recognition is very high. (This study did not use “news” stories).
Son, J., Reese, S. D., and Davie, W. R. (1987). Effects of visual-verbal redundancy and recaps on television news learning. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 31, 207-216.
Results show that high redundancy between audio and video information in news stories improved recall for the stories but had no effect on comprehension.
Choi, Y. J., & Lee, J. H. (2006). The role of a scene in framing a story: An analysis of a scene’s position, length and proportion. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 50, 703-722.
This study showed how a story’s overall framing was related to the connotation of particular scenes–positive (e.g. medical breakthroughs), negative (e.g. violent crime events), or neutral. In 87 stories on network news, the number of scenes supporting a particular viewpoint was a more important factor to the framing of a story than the length or the placement of scenes.
Drew, D. G., & Cadwell, R. (1985). Some effects of video editing on perceptions of television news. Journalism Quarterly, 62 (4), 828-849.
An experiment found visual discontinuity (jump cuts) in TV news had no significant impact on viewer impressions regarding credibility, professionalism, or quality. The jump cut conditions used for the experiment were low, medium, and high. A high jump-cut condition was when a visual sequence changed neither camera angle nor distance at points of visual discontinuity. Medium conditions changed either angle or distance, and low jump-cut conditions manipulated both angle and distance at points of visual discontinuity. Only when the audio track was muted did the low and medium jump cuts produce more favorable evaluations of visual discontinuity than did the high condition. Tightening the focal distance of the image (i.e. cutting in a close-up) increased credibility.
Lang, A., Shin, M., Bradley, S., Wang, Z., Lee, S., and Potter, D. Wait! Don’t Turn that Dial! More Excitement to Come! The Effects of Story Length and Production Pacing in Local Television News on Channel Changing Behavior and Information
Processing in a Free Choice Environment Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 49(1), 2005.
This study investigated whether news story length and production pacing affect channel changing behavior in younger and older adults. Neither pacing nor story length had much effect on how long older viewers watched a channel. Younger viewers spent more time on channels with fast-paced shorter stories, but on channels with longer stories, younger viewers spent more time watching those that were also slower-paced. In another surprising result, faster pacing led to better recognition for long stories and worse recognition for short stories for both age groups.
Lang, A., Bolls, P., Potter, R., and Kawahara, K. (1999). The Effects of Production Pacing and Arousing Content on the Information Processing of Television Messages. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. 43(4), 451-476.
This study manipulated the pace of editing and the arousing content of the stories. Pacing is manipulated by the number of changes from one visual scene to another. It finds that fast pace hurts verbal memory but has little effect on visual memory. Arousing content improves memory. However, when stories are both arousing and fast paced or neither arousing nor fast paced, memory for the stories is the worst.
Lang, A., Geiger, S., Strickwerda, M., Sumner, J., (1993). The effects of related and unrelated cuts on viewers’ memory for television: A limited capacity theory of television viewing. Communication Research, Vol. 20; 1. pp. 4-29.
This paper measured memory for information presented immediately after a change from one camera to another (in the same scene) or a change from one scene to another. If found that these edits/cuts increased attention and mental effort. However, changing scenes reduced memory for about 2-3 seconds, while staying in the same scene resulted in an increase in memory.
Zhou, S., Schwartz, N., Bolls, P., Potter, R. F., Lang, A., Trout, G., Funabiki, R., Borse, J., & Dent, D. (1997, August). When an edit is an edit can an edit be too much? The effects of edits on arousal, attention, and memory for television messages. Paper presented to the Theory and Methodology Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Chicago, IL.
This study shows that the pace of switching from one camera to another in the same visual scene does not damage memory for messages, but rather as pacing increases, memory increases.
Bergen, L., Grimes, T., & Potter, D. (2005). How attention partitions itself during simultaneous message presentations. Human Communication Research, 31 (3), 311-336.
This study compared viewers’ ability to process TV news stories with and without multiple layers of surrounding graphics. Visual complexity caused participants to shift attention to the audio track. As a result, they missed about 10% of the information presented. (A longer summary is available here.)
Edwardson, M., Kent, K., Engstrom, E., & Hofmann, R. (1992). Audio recall immediately following video change in television news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 36, 395-410.
This study found that introducing graphics into news stories decreased memory for the concurrent audio information. However, it increased overall recall for the story, and viewers’ liking and comprehension of the stories.
Fox, J.R., Lang, A., Chung, Y., Lee, S., Schwartz, N., and Potter, D. (2004). Picture this: Effects of graphics on the processing of television news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 48 (4), 646-674.
The study found that animated graphics worked better than full-screen graphics or b-roll in both holding viewer attention and increasing comprehension for news stories. The effect was especially pronounced for stories that were rated difficult to understand. (A longer summary is available here.)
Grabe, M.E.; Lang, A. & Zhao, X. (2003). News Content and Form: Implications for Memory and Audience Evaluations. Communication Research, 30(4), 387-413
This experiment examines the effect of tabloid and standard packaging styles on calm and arousing news stories. Results indicate that the bells and whistles of tabloid production features enhance memory for calm news items but overburden the information processing system when applied to arousing news content. Viewers rate news packaged in the tabloid format as less objective and believable than stories without these dramatic features.
Grabe, M. E., Zhou, S., Lang, A. and Bolls, P. (2000). Packaging television news: The effects of tabloid on information processing and evaluative responses. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 44(4), 581-598.
This study compared evaluations, attention, emotion, and memory for news stories produced using a tabloid or a standard format. The tabloid stories differed from the standard format in the use of music, sound effects, slow motion, flash frames as transitions between shots, and the obtrusiveness of the reporter’s voice. The flamboyant tabloid packaging style increased arousal and attention but did not have a significant impact on recognition memory or delayed free recall of information. Moreover, viewers found the tabloid stories to be less believable, less informative, less enjoyable, and to have reporters who were less detached.
Mesbah, H. (2005). The impact of linear and non-linear listening to radio news on recall and comprehension. Paper presented at AEJMC, San Antonio, TX.
The study found that interactivity increases understanding and memory for radio news stories, but only up to a point. Participants who could listen online at their own pace (by clicking on each individual story in order) scored better than those who listened to the radio, or to a streaming newscast online. But adding more links and background to the web page actually decreased comprehension and recall.
Miller, A. (2006). Watching viewers watch TV: Processing live, breaking and emotional news in a naturalistic setting. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 83(3), 511-529.
College students were tested to determine their recall and visual attention — eyes on screen (EOS) – for live and breaking news. Breaking and live stories did gain the initial attention of the participants but did not hold their continuous attention. Participants showed a preference for traditional stories over breaking or live coverage. Participants also viewed stories appealing to fear (e.g. storms destroying homes) or disgust (e.g. surgery on a monkey). Disgusting stories were preferred over fear-based reports, but viewers were less likely to recall disgusting images while fearful stories left a more lasting impression.
Thorson, E. and Lang, A. (1992). Effects of television videographics and lecture familiarity on adult cardiac orienting responses and memory. Communication Research, Vol. 19, #3, pp. 346-369.
This study looked at memory for the verbal and the visual content of messages before, during, and after the appearance of a redundancy videographic. It found that when the topic of the story was difficult/unfamiliar the videographic reduced memory for information presented while the videographic was on screen. However, when the content was easy or familiar to the viewer memory was increased during the videographic.
Tuggle, C.A., & Huffman, S. (1999). Live news reporting: Professional judgment or technological pressure? A national survey of television news directors and senior reporters. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 43(4), 492-505.
Findings from this study indicate that news reporters are at times uncomfortable with live reporting, believing that news operations often allow technology to drive journalism. The data indicate that senior reporters and news directors adopt different perspectives of live newsgathering and that the disparity between the two groups widens in larger markets. The majority of both groups agree that “live for the sake of live” takes place with disturbing frequency in newsrooms across the nation.
Tuggle, C. A., Huffman, S., & Rosengard, D.S. (2007). Reporting live from the scene: Enough to attract the 18-24 audience. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 51, 58-72.
This study measured the impact of live news coverage on a younger demographic group – 18-to-24 year olds – and found qualified support for “going live.” A majority of college students surveyed in Texas and North Carolina appreciated the immediacy of live news, and they also felt it could help storytelling and give the news context. More than two-thirds (69.4%), however, found it to be “meaningless” at times, and were not likely to prefer a TV newscast just for its live coverage.
Brosius, Hans-Bernd (1989). Influence of presentation features and news content on learning from television news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 33, 1-14.
This study manipulated audio repetition, a/v redundancy, the presence or absence of video, and the length of the newscast. Audio stories that included additional information and repetition of major themes were remembered more correctly and better than those that did not.
David, D. (1996). Role of imagery in recall of deviant news. Journalism Quarterly, 73, 804-820.
This study looked at newspaper headlines. It found that deviant (unusual) headlines and headlines that used language high in imagery are remembered better than non-deviant and low imagery stories. Related work in the Indiana University Institute for Communication Research with radio stories shows using words high in imagery and audio techniques significantly increases attention and memory for radio messages.
Gunter, B. (1985). Telling the story effectively (chapter 7). In B. Gunter, Poor Reception: The misunderstanding and forgetting of broadcast news. Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.
This chapter suggests that narrative structure is an important variable in memory for the news. Narrative versions of stories are remembered better than topical, or standard news versions.
Lang, A., Potter, D., & Grabe, M. E. (2003). Making news memorable: Applying theory to the production of local television news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 47, 113-124.
Narrative rules designed to improve comprehension and recall of television stories were tested in this experiment comparing two versions of local news stories. The rules: letting emotions speak; slowing down the tempo; using silence; matching audio and video; reporting around negative images; using concrete words and images, and organizing chronological narratives. Application of these rules significantly enhanced memory and understanding, and did so without losing viewer attention.
Lang, A. (1989) Effects of Chronological presentation of information on processing and memory for broadcast news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 33, 441-452.
Viewers remember more from stories presented in chronological order. Stories told this way reduce processing load and result in greater recall of the stories and recognition for the content.
Behnke, R. & Miller, P. (1992). Viewer reactions to content and presentational format of television news. Journalism Quarterly, 69, 659 – 666.
This study finds that there is no relationship between segment placement and level of viewer interest in general. Attention does not fall off over the course of a 30-minute newscast. News stories received the highest interest ratings followed by sports with weather and commercials in last place. News stories of accidents, violence, and drama as well as commercials with strong visual and musical support received the highest interest ratings.
Brosius, H. (1991). Format effects on comprehension of television news. Journalism Quarterly, 68, 396-401.
This study manipulated talking head vs. film (video) stories and mixed vs. same formats. Results showed that memory was better for mixed formats compared to same formats, and for film compared to talking heads. These results were additive, not interactive. This means, for example, that putting a talking head story between two stories with video improves memory for the talking head story.
This study manipulated audio repetition, a/v redundancy, the presence or absence of video, and the length of the newscast. Stories were remembered better and understood better in newscasts containing fewer stories (4) compared to those containing more stories (8).
Daniels, G. L., & Loggins, G. M. (2007). Conceptualizing continuous coverage: A strategic model for wall-to-wall local television weather broadcasts. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 35(1), 48-66.
A study compared weather coverage by four TV stations in two markets (Birmingham, AL and Wilmington, NC) during the 2005 hurricane season. Stations relied primarily on their weather forecaster over news anchors. The top elements of coverage were radar of the storm’s positioning followed by graphics for weather watches and warnings. Assessments of local damage and briefings by government officials and utility companies occupied a secondary role. The study found that reports of emergency responses in the local area were more useful to the audience than on-the-scene reporting from distant locations.
Gunter, B. (1985). Packaging the programme (chapter 8). In B. Gunter, Poor Reception: The misunderstanding and forgetting of broadcast news. Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.
This chapter discusses several items related to newscast structure and packaging. First, the serial position effect. This is the effect that people remember the last things in a list best, the first things not quite as well, and things in the middle are remembered the least. This holds true (generally) for newscasts also, but emotional stories and stories with good video can overcome this general effect. Clustering similar stories can lead to some confusion and misremembering. It does not appear to improve viewers’ evaluations of the newscast.
Housel, T. J. (1984). Understanding and recall of TV news. Journalism Quarterly, 61(3), 505-741.
Complex language in a newscast script strongly affected the ability of viewers to understand and recall information. A simple style worked much better. Recommendations include using more connectives (and, also, but, etc.), more common nouns and verbs; referent overlapping (e.g. the bullet pierced her purse, and the bullet made a large hole) and deleting irrelevant information in order to reduce linguistic complexity in TV news.
Mundorf, N., Drew, D., Zillmann, D., & Weaver, J. (1990). Effects of disturbing news on recall of subsequently presented news. Communication Research, 17(5), 601-615.
This study finds that memory for a story presented following a negative story is significantly worse than memory for a story presented following a neutral story. Arousing news appears to cause a cognitive preoccupation that impairs attention, encoding, and retrieval of news that follows it. The researchers recommend that broadcasters wait at least four and a half minutes after an arousing story to present important public affairs information.
Mundorf, N. and Zillmann, D. (1991). Effects of story sequencing on affective reactions to broadcast news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 35, 197-211.
This study finds that emotional stories (both positive and negative) alter viewers’ evaluation of their affective responses to the stories that precede and follow the emotional stories. Thus, emotional stories (positive or negative) make the stories which precede and follow them appear to be less emotional.
Scott, R. and Goff, F.. (1988). How expectation from prior programming effects television news recall. Journalism Quarterly, 65, 615-620.
This study shows that when prior programming is arousing, the first two minutes of the newscast is remembered more poorly, the next two minutes is remembered best, the last two minutes is in the middle.
Zillmann, D., Gibson, R., Ordman, V. L., and Aust, C. F. (1994). Effects of upbeat stories in broadcast news. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 38, 65-78.
Newscasts were compared which ended with a humorous story or a human-interest story or no additional story. Results show that viewers’ rate the earlier stories in the newscast as less important or severe when the newscast ends with a humorous story.
Bernard, R. M., and Coldevin, G. O. (1985). Effects of recap strategies on television news recall and retention. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 29, 407-419.
This study compared verbal and audio/visual recaps to no recaps. It found that the gist, but not the details, of stories with recaps was remembered better than those without recaps. The two types of recaps did not differ from one another. The study suggests that recapping some stories and not others may actually damage memory for the non-recapped stories (in addition to improving recall of the recapped stories).
Chang, H. (1998) The effect of news teasers in processing TV News. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 42, 327-339.
This study found that teasers placed in the program preceding the news story increased recall and comprehension of the story that was teased. Whether the teaser was visual or verbal did not appear to alter the effectiveness of the teaser.
Schleuder, J. D., White, A. V., & Cameron, G. T. (1993). Priming effects of television news bumpers and teasers on attention and memory. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 37, 437-452.
This study looked at bumpers (at the beginning of a newscast) and teasers (before a commercial break). News stories that had teasers, or bumpers and teasers, were attended to more than news stories that had no bumpers or teasers. However, those with just bumpers did not receive more attention. Verbal memory was better for news stories that had bumpers, teasers, or both.
Son, J., Reese, S. D., and Davie, W. R. (1987). Effects of visual-verbal redundancy and recaps on television news learning. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 31, 207-216.
Results showed that verbal recaps did not improve memory for stories in a newscast but did improve comprehension for those stories.
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Race and gender
Gibbons, J., Vogl, R. and Grimes, T. (2003). Memory Misattribution for Characters in a Television News Story. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 47(1), 99-112.
This study found that gender stereotypes can influence viewers’ memory for TV news stories to the extent that they misremember which character did what. Showing viewers a still frame of the characters before screeing the story cleared up much of the confusion.
Gilliam, F. D. Jr., & Iyengar, S. (2000). Prime suspects: The influence of local television news on the viewing public. American Journal of Political Science, 44 (3), 560-573.
This multi-method study showed how “crime scripts” combined elements of race with violent crime. Based on a content analysis of 3,014 crime stories and an experiment with adult participants, researchers found the crime narrative on television “racialized” the political discourse, cultivating misperceptions and feelings of prejudice against African-Americans among white viewers. These feelings were not found among black viewers.
Gilliam, F. D. Jr., Valentino, N. A., & Beckmann, M. N. (2002). Where you live and what you watch: The impact of racial proximity and local television news on attitudes about race and crime. Political Research Quarterly, 55 (4), 755-780.
This experimental study tested the impact of television news coverage on viewers’ opinions about race. Those who lived close to African-Americans were less likely to be influenced by stereotypical portrayals of race and crime on television news.
Kamhawi, R., & Grabe, M. E. (2008). Engaging the female audience: An evolutionary psychology perspective on gendered responses to news valence frames. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 52, 33-51.
A television news experiment compared responses by gender to stories frame positively and negatively. Female viewers found the negative version less enjoyable and less credible than males did. Authors considered if negative framing discourages women from watching television news.
Nitz, M., Reichert, T., Aune, A. S., & Velde, A. V. (2007). All the news that’s fit to see? The sexualization of television news journalists as a promotional strategy. Journal of Promotion Management, 1(1/2), 13-33.
An analysis of TV news segments (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Univision, local TV station) showed that broadcast journalists, especially female, were presented in a manner emphasizing their sexual appeal and physical attractiveness (e.g. open blouses, tight skirts). The researchers found suggestive dressing and behaviors, camera angles, and other design elements contributed to “sexualization” in 62% of the news segments.
Aust, Charles S. and Zillmann, D. (1996). Effects of victim exemplification to in television news on viewer perception of social issues. Journalism Quarterly, 73, pp. 787-804.
There were three versions of stories: without victim exemplification, with an unemotional victim exemplification, and emotional victim exemplification. The dependent variables included severity of the problem, likelihood of being a local problem, likelihood of personal risk. The use of emotional victims increased viewers’ assessment of problem severity, risk to self and sense of distress.
Newhagen, J. E. (1994). Effects of televised government censorship disclaimers on memory and thought elaboration during the Gulf War. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 38, 339-352.
This study compared war stories with graphic censorship disclaimers to those without. It found that viewers correctly identified which stories had disclaimers only 30% of the time. Visual recall for the stories was not affected. However, viewers made negative comments about the censoring government more often when the disclaimers were present.
Slattery, K. and Tiedge, J. T. (1992). The effect of labeling staged video on the credibility of TV news stories. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 36, 279-286.
The same stories were viewed either with a label saying they were staged video or without. Credibility for the stories did not vary unless there was more than one story in a newscast that was labeled.
Zillmann, D., Gibson, R., Sundar, S. and Perkins, W. (1996). Effects of exemplification in news reports on the perception of social issues. Journalism Quarterly, 73, pp. 427-444.
This newspaper study shows that the number of examples has more impact on reader estimates of the frequency of family farm failures than does base rate information. That is, readers thought the situation was more serious if they saw more examples of the problem, even when the underlying statistical information presented was the same.
Adams, T. (2007). Producers, directors, and horizontal communication in television news production. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 51, 337-354.
A survey of 58 producers and 63 directors found news producers tend to be younger and less experienced than television directors and often did not communicate effectively with each other. The study showed that healthy communication between newscast producers and directors led to a greater appreciation of each other’s contributions, and that in turn led to greater job satisfaction and improved newscast quality.
Anzur, T., Murphy, S., & Scheter, M. (2001, August). Diversity in Local Television News: A clogged pipeline? Paper submitted to the Radio-Television Journalism division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Washington, DC.
The authors surveyed television news directors in markets ranked between 100th and 150th nationally, where aspiring TV news anchors and reporters often get their first jobs. Entry-level hiring is done primarily by white males and reflects their perceptions of the local audience, the perceived difficulty of finding qualified applicants and the low priority placed on diversity. Women and minorities are under-represented among actual hires, contributing to an industry-wide shortage of diverse on-air talent.
Daniels, G. (2001, August). What managers do: The relationship between what managers do and how newsroom workers respond in times of change. Paper submitted to the Media Management and Economics division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Washington, DC.
Based on a survey of workers at CNN Headline News, where six major changes occurred simultaneously in 1998, information about how change relates to long-term goals was, by far, the most valuable predictor of how newsroom workers might respond to change. There was no relationship between an employee’s perceived level of communication and how likely an employee is to quit in a time of change.
Engstrom, E. and Ferri, A.J. (2001). Looking through a gendered lens: Local U.S. television news anchors; perceived career barriers. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 44(4), 614-634.
The authors surveyed 246 local television news anchors to examine their perceptions of hindrances to their career progress. Women anchors’ highest-rated barrier was the overemphasis on their physical appearance. Men ranked the lack of professional networks and support groups as the highest. Career barriers ranked highly by anchors of both sexes included maintaining a balance between work and family life, conflicting roles of wife/mother or father/husband and professional newscaster, and relocation.
Greer, J., & Williams, K. (1999, August). Has the salary gap closed? A survey of men and women managers at U.S. television stations. Paper submitted to the Radio-Television Journalism division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
A survey of 169 general managers, general sales managers, news directors, and program managers at the nation’s television stations found that while more women have reached the industry’s top ranks, they still report lower salaries, fewer benefits, and feelings of having less authority than male managers. However, when personal (gender, education, and age) and job characteristics (including market size and job title) were entered into a regression analysis, gender was a significant predictor only for salary.
Hollifield, C.A., Kosicki, G.M., and Becker, L.B. (2000). Organizational vs. professional culture in the newsroom: Television news directors’ and newspaper editors’ hiring decisions. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 45(1), 92.
Media critics argue that corporate values dominate newsroom decisions. This study tests that argument using national surveys to compare television news directors’ and newspaper editors’ hiring practices. The study examined whether news executives seek employees with characteristics valued by the organizational culture or those valued by the professional culture of journalism. The data show that news executives emphasize hiring people based on personality and work habits over any professional characteristic except language skills.
Napoli, P. M., & Yan, M. Z. (2007). Media ownership regulations and local news programming on broadcast television: An empirical analysis. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 51(1), 39-57.
A two-week sample of programming from 285 TV stations indicated that the quantity of local news programming is positively related to the financial strength of the station as well as the quality of competitors in the market. On the other hand, the study found very little evidence for the notion that media ownership (duopoly ownership or ownership by one of the big four broadcast networks) affects local news programming.
Powers, A. (2001). Toward monopolistic competition in U.S. local television news. Journal of Media Economics, 14(2), 77-86. This article analyzes the market structure of large, medium, and small market stations by looking at changes in the market shares and number of competitors. Findings suggest that in smaller markets only the most financially secure, number-one-rated stations will risk adding more time for news to their programming. In top-10 markets, where the financial stakes are higher, trailing stations compete by increasing their news presence during the day.
Scott, D. K., Gobetz, R. H., & Chanslor, M. (2008). Chain versus independent television station ownership: Toward an investment model of commitment to local news quality. Communication Studies, 59(1), 84-98.
This study found that a television news department run by a small and locally owned media group displayed a stronger commitment to broadcast news quality than a larger chain-owned broadcast organization. Results indicated the newscast quality was enhanced by more local news coverage; more local video; greater use of reporters in newscasts, and fewer promotions.
Wenger, D. H., & Owens, L. C. (2008). Resource allocation and managerial oversight of local morning newscasts. Electronic News, 2(2), 102-116.
News directors were surveyed to find out what they think helps to raise ratings for local morning newscasts. A vast majority said adding staff and providing greater managerial oversight were most effective.
Banning, S. A., & Sweetser, K. D. (2007). How much do they think it affects them and whom do they believe?: Comparing the third-person effect and credibility of blogs and traditional media. Communication Quarterly, 55(4), 451-466.
The third-person effect is a cognitive phenomenon that occurs when one trusts one’s own ability to evaluate media content, but is convinced that others are not so capable. This experiment tested undergraduate students who responded to the credibility and social distance of sample blogs, online news items, and newspaper stories and researchers found no significant third-person effect. Participants considered blogs, online news, and traditional news media to be similar in terms of credibility.
Cleary, J., & Adams-Bloom, T. (2008). Gatekeeping at the Portal: An Analysis of Local Television Websites’ User-Generated Content. Paper presented to the Annual Convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), Chicago, IL.
A content analysis of local broadcast television station websites across the United States found that 66% included user-generated content like still photos, weblogs, and videos. However, much of it was intended to grab attention rather than disseminate real information. The stations also were found to focus more on legal issues than editorial issues with the user-generated content. The authors say local TV websites have largely not tapped their potential to appeal to a wider local audience.
Diddi, A., & LaRose, R. (2006). Getting hooked on news: Uses and gratifications and the formation of news habits among college students in an Internet environment. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 50, 193-210.
An online survey of college students related their uses of news to motivations for information and entertainment (uses and gratifications). College students tend to be “news grazers” without a regular schedule for news. Internet portals and cable news channels form their strongest habits. When they wish to survey the environment, they turn to cable television, the Internet, broadcast stations, and newspapers. Comic news (eg., The Daily Show) and the Internet satisfy their need for entertainment and escape.
Gladney, G. A., Shapiro, I., & Castaldo, J. (2007). Online editors rate web news quality criteria. Newspaper Research Journal, 28(1), 55-69.
This study rated thirty-eight criteria for news quality in their order of importance to online editors. The top values were credibility, utility, and immediacy. Also important were Web-specific criteria including ease of use, appropriate design, clear use of colors and formats, and the simplicity of website interfaces.
Groshek, J. (2008). Homogenous agendas, disparate frames: CNN and CNN International coverage online. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 52, 52-68.
This content analysis compared online editions of CNN with CNN-International to find CNN-I producing 18% more headlines (568-to-399) while both covered the same top-three subjects: crime, politics, and war, during a sample period in 2005. Stories covered by CNN were twice as likely as those on CNN-I to be framed according to the American perspective (71.4% / 35.7%). It was more common for CNN to show violent, conflict imagery online than CNN-I (29% / 15%), but their common news agendas led the author to speculate about an emerging global media culture.
Lee, J. K. (2007). The effect of the Internet on homogeneity of the media agenda: A test of the fragmentation thesis. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 84(4), 745-760.
News agendas for liberal and conservative bloggers (eg., Left Coaster, Little Green Footballs) were compared with mainstream news channels (eg., New York Times, CNN) during the 2004 presidential race. The study showed both liberal and conservative sides of the blogosphere covered similar issues (functioning of government, foreign affairs, public order, etc.) that were shaped by mainstream news media.
Niekamp, R. (2008). Opportunity lost: Blogs on local TV station web sites. Electronic News, 1(3), 149-164.
This study critiqued the unrealized potential of blogging on TV news stations’ websites. A total of 226 blogs from television stations in 38 top markets were reviewed, and found journalist’s blogs established a relationship between the viewer and on-air talent. Viewer feedback online provided a greater sense of involvement with the television station.
Smith, L. K., Tanner, A. H., & Duhe, S. F. (2007). Convergence concerns in local television: Conflicting views from the newsroom. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 51, 555-574.
This web-based survey of local TV producers and reporters indicated they felt greater pressure on the job due to the increased work of creating web content. Sixty-eight percent reported additional duties requiring contributions to the station’s web site, and some said their regular news work suffered as a result. Respondents in medium markets were more likely to express negative opinions about producing web content than smaller market TV journalists.
Sylvie, G., & Chyi, H. I. (2007). One product two markets: How geography differentiates online newspaper audiences. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 84(3), 562-581.
The online penetration (average views and minutes per thousand viewers) of 136 newspaper websites attributed a strong following in local markets to residents’ interest in local news. However, fifty percent or more of the online audience came from outside the newspaper’s print circulation area, according to this secondary analysis of ComScore Media and Metrix LocalScore data.
Tremayne, M., Weiss, A. S., & Alves, R. C. (2007). From product to service: The diffusion of dynamic content in online newspapers. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 84(4), 825-839.
Findings from this three- year study indicated a surge in dynamic journalism – hourly updates — on the web pages of 24 U.S. newspapers. The online editions of smaller newspapers showed the most growth, while dynamic journalism became increasingly local in nature. Video coverage also surged in 2006 with more online attention given to sports, government/politics, courts, and war/military news.
Wise, K., Bolls, B., Myers, J. & Sternadori, M. (2009) When words collide online: How writing style and video intensity affect cognitive processing of online news. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, (53, 4), 532-546.
This experiment explored how the writing style of online news, defined as inverted pyramid versus narrative, affects the cognitive processing of accompanying video clips. Results suggested that reading inverted pyramid stories may require allocation of more cognitive resources to encoding a related video clip. Recognition for story details was more accurate for stories in narrative than inverted pyramid style
More online journalism research citations from Mindy McAdams.
Graber, D. (1988). Processing the News: How People Tame the Information Tide. New York: Longman. Notes on this study are available online.
Gunter, B. (1979). Recall of television news items: Effects of presentation mode, picture content and serial position. Journal of Educational Television, 5, 57-61.
Gunter, B., Berry, C., & Clifford, B. (1981). Release from proactive interference with television news items: Further evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human learning and memory, 7, 480-487.
Gunter, B., Berry, C. & Clifford, B. (1982). Remembering broadcast news: The implications of experimental research for production technique. Human Learning, 1, 13-29.
Gunter, B., Clifford, B., & Berry, C. (1980). Release from proactive interference with television news items: Evidence for encoding dimensions within televised news. Journal of Experimental Psychology: human learning and memory ,6, 216-223.
Iyengar, S., & Kinder, D. R. (1987). News that matters. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Robinson, J. P., Davis, D., Sahin, H. & O’Toole, T. (1980) Comprehension of television news: How alert is the audience? Paper presented to the Association for Education in Journalism.
Robinson, J. P., Sahin, H. & Davis, D. (1980). Television journalists and their audiences. In J.S. Ettema & D.C. Whitney (Eds), Individuals in mass media organizations: creativity and constraint.
Stauffer, J., Frost, R. & Rybolt, W. (1983). The attention factor in recalling network television news. Journal of Communication, 33, 29-37.