Mark A. Jeter

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Powers, Angela

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Journalism


Television broadcasting of news--Illinois; Mass media--Objectivity--Illinois; Television broadcasting--Illinois; Local mass media--Illinois


Some 46 years ago, the Hutchins Commission directed American journalists to become socially responsible in their reporting. This included a call for "fair and balanced interpretations" of news events. This research conducted a content analysis of local television news to test whether broadcast journalists are covering controversial issues and how well they are reporting them according to the directive from the Hutchins Commission. It examined one week of newscasts from stations in three differently-sized markets, each representing a large, a medium and a small market. It tested the effect of market size on variables such as coverage of controversial news, fairness in the reporting and balance in the reporting of these controversial stories. The large market indicated the best record for coverage of controversial stories, followed by the medium market and the small market, respectively. This held true for both the number of controversial stories covered and the amount of newscast time dedicated to them. The types of controversial stories was also shown to be related to market size. The large market reported more controversial stories involving law, while the medium and small markets reported on more controversial government stories. When studying the reporting of these controversial stories, the large market produced significantly more fair and more balanced reports. The fairness variable was defined as the presentation of both sides of the controversy. More than half of the stories examined in the small and medium markets did not include statements from one side of the controversy and were coded as unfair, while the large market reported less than one-third of its stories unfairly. Balance was defined as the difference in the amount of time given to the sides of the controversy. This also indicated significant difference between markets. With the best record of balance, the large market still presented an average of nearly 33% more time to one side of the controversy, compared to about 43% difference in the medium and small markets.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [75]-78)


vi, 78 pages




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