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Methodologies

The data for the State of the News Media 2013 report were collected in two parts. The first part consists of data originally generated by other people or organizations that the Pew Research Center then collected and aggregated. The second part, particularly the content analysis, is original work conducted specifically for this report.

For the data aggregated from other researchers, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism took several steps. First, we tried to determine what data had been collected and by whom for the eight media sectors studied. In many cases, this included securing rights to data through license fees or other means. We organized the data into the seven primary areas of interest we wanted to examine: content, audience, economics, ownership, newsroom investment, alternative news outlets and digital trends.

Next, we studied the data closely to determine where elements reinforced each other and where there were apparent contradictions or gaps. In doing so, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism endeavored to determine the value and validity of each data set. That in many cases involved going back to the sources that collected the research in the first place. Where data conflicted, we have included all relevant sources and tried to explain their differences, either in footnotes or in the narratives.

In analyzing the data for each media sector, we sought insight from experts by having at least three outside readers for each sector chapter. Those readers raised questions, offered arguments and questioned data where they saw fit.

All sources are cited in footnotes or within the narrative, and listed alphabetically in a source bibliography. The data used in the report are also available in more complete tabular form online, where users can view the raw material, sort it on their own and make their own charts and graphs. Our goal was not only to organize the available material into a clear narrative, but to also collect all the public data on journalism in one usable place. In many cases, the Pew Research Center paid for the use of the data.

In addition, we conducted original research in a number of special reports and features. The methodologies for each can be found below. You can scroll through them all or click to go directly to the report of interest.

Citing Reduced Quality, Many Americans Abandon News Outlets

Friends and Family – Important Drivers of News

The Changing TV News Landscape

Survey Special Reports

The PSRAI January Week 4 and February Week 1 2013 Omnibus Polls obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,009 adults living in the continental United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (1,003) and cell phone (1,006, including 512 without a landline phone). The surveys were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English by Princeton Data Source from January 24 to 27 and February 7 to 10, 2013. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 2.5 percentage points.

The Changing TV News Landscape

The study, The Changing TV News Landscape, is based on the content analysis data derived from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s in-house news coding operation.

Cable and Network TV: The data regarding media coverage during the first five months of 2007 and 2012 was derived from the Pew Research Center’s News Coverage Index (NCI). In January 2007, Pew Research began the NCI, which examined more than 50 news outlets in real time to determine what is being covered and what is not, and other elements of the news each week such as the format of reporting. A team of in-house coders worked on the project. Each member of the coding team was given extensive training in Pew Research’s methods and met high standards of reliability. The work was measured regularly for inter-coder reliability and agreement. Coders watched each piece of news content from the television broadcasts.

Content Captured: The main television analysis was based on content captured Monday – Friday on an ongoing basis. This study included content from January 1, 2007 – May 31, 2007, and January 1, 2012 – May 31 – 2012. In addition, in late 2012, twelve hours per day of cable news for each channel were captured and analyzed.

Details of the capture are as follows:

Cable News

For the comparison data between 2007 and 2012, the main sample consisted of a half-hour of afternoon programming (2:00-2:30 p.m. Eastern time) along with the first 30 minutes of many of the general news-focused programs during the evening hours. Our earlier studies have shown that for much of the day, most people find one cable news program on a channel to be indistinguishable from another. If one were to ask a daytime viewer of cable news which program he or she preferred, the 10 a.m. or the noon, you might get a confused look in response. For blocks of hours at a time, the channels will have programs with generic titles such as CNN Newsroom, Your World Today or Fox News Live.

In addition to the main sample, Pew Research examined an additional three full days of cable in late 2012 (November 26, December 5 and December 18). This was done in order to add additional variables such as commentary and opinion versus factual reporting, and so we could be sure the half-hour sampling of afternoon cable news was representative of daytime cable news. The data from those three days suggest that the 2:00-2:30 p.m. time slot is representative of daytime programming in general.

Combined, Pew Research analyzed a total of 711 hours of cable news (excluding commercials and previews). The specific cable sample was as follows:

Daytime

Rotate, coding two out of three 30-minute daytime slots each day (60 minutes a day).

Early Evening and Prime Time

Two 30-minute segments for Fox News (60 minutes)
One or two 30-minute segments for CNN (30 or 60 minutes)
One or two 30-minute segments for MSNBC (30 or 60 minutes)

The Index rotates among all programming from 6 to 11 p.m. that was focused on general news events of the day excluding CNN’s Larry King Live and Fox’s Greta Van Susteren. On October 3, 2011, CNN changed the lineup. The Situation Room was moved to 5pm slot, and we decided to keep the Situation Room in the sample.

Below is the current list of evening cable programs included in our sample as of January 2012.

CNN Fox News MSNBC
5 p.m.  Situation Room  ——  ——
6 p.m John King, USA Special Report w/Bret Baier PoliticsNation
7 p.m Erin Burnett OutFront Fox Report w/ Shephard Smith Hardball
8 p.m. Anderson Cooper 360 The O’Reilly Factor The Ed Show
9 p.m. —— Hannity The Rachel Maddow Show
10 p.m. —— —— ——

This rotation results in between three and four hours of cable programming each day (including daytime).

For the first five months of 2012, Pew Research analyzed 6,472 stories during the course of 267 hours of programming (not including commercials or previews). In 2007, the sample was larger, as Pew Research coded 9,655 stories during the course of 377 hours.

Day-Long Analysis

Three additional days in late 2012 (November 26, December 5 and December 18) were added to the analysis to measure the amount of opinion and reporting that appeared throughout the day on each of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Twelve hours of programming a day for each station were examined. The times studied were 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET, noon to 3 p.m. ET, and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET. (Because CNN often runs a repeat of Anderson Cooper 360 at 10 pm, CNN was only coded for 11 hours each day.)

This resulted in an additional 67 hours of cable news programming (excluding commercials).

Network News:

The network news analysis consisted of 381 total hours of content. For the commercial evening newscasts, the study included the entire program. For the morning programs, it consisted of the news segments that appear during the first 30 minutes of the broadcast, including the national news inserts but not local inserts. By selecting this sample of the morning shows, it is possible that we will be missing some news stories that appear later in the programs. However, through prior research, we have learned that the morning shows generally move away from the news of the day after the first 30 minutes-save for the top-of-the-hour news insert-and present more human interest and lifestyle stories after that point. The stories that the networks feel are most important will appear during the first 30 minutes and be included in our study.

For the PBS NewHour, analyzed separately, researchers coded 30 minutes of the hour long program. In 2007, every program was included, while in 2012, Pew Research examined every third weekday.

The resulting network sample was:

Commercial Evening News: Entire 30 minutes of 2 out of 3 programs each day (60 minutes)
Commercial Morning News: 1st 30 minutes of 1 or 2 out of 3 programs each day (30 or 60 minutes)
PBS NewsHour: Code the first 30 minutes every third day.

This results in either 1.5 to 2.5 hours of programming each day. In total, the 2012 sample of January through May included 4,942 stories and a total of 134 hours (excluding commercials and previews). In 2007, the five-month sample included 8,841 stories and 247 hours.

(Click here for more details on how this real-time weekly coding was conducted.)

Local Television News:

For local television news, which was not a part of the NCI, the comparison was primarily between 2005 and 2012. Data from 2005 came from a Pew Research project called A Day in the Life of Media, which examined 24 newscasts from three markets (Milwaukee, Houston and Bend, Oregon) from one day, May 11, 2005. That study included almost eleven hours of programming (excluding commercials) and 908 stories.

From 1998 through 2002, however, Pew Research undertook an exhaustive examination of the content of local news in 15 to 20 markets a year – randomly selected with controls for station size and geographic diversity. In all, 154 stations, 33,911 stories and 1,200 hours of newscasts were studied. Based on that research, the largest single study of local news we know of, Pew Research has a fairly detailed sense of what Americans generally get from local television news. Researchers examined that data closely to be sure the findings were in sync with the Day in the Life Analysis from 2005.

For data from 2012, Pew Research examined eight stations – two each from four markets – over three days in late 2012 and early 2013. The same three markets used in 2005 were included, along with a fourth market, Pittsburgh, which was added to increase diversity. The two top-rated stations from each market were chosen based on Pew Research’s analysis of Nielsen Media Research data from all four sweep periods. One morning and one evening program from each station were identified. The times examined for all stations were 6:00-6:30 a.m. local time and either 10:00-10:30 p.m. local time or 11:00-11:30 p.m. local time, depending on what each station offered.

The days studied differed slightly for the various markets (due to technical availability). For Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, the days studied were all in 2012 – Monday, November 26; Wednesday, December 5, and Tuesday, December 18. For Houston and Bend, one day was in 2012 (Tuesday, December 18), while the next two days were in 2013 (Wednesday, January 2, and Monday, January 7). This sample resulted in 24 broadcasts, 1,055 stories and more than 15 hours of news programming (excluding commercials and previews).

While there was some variation among the content and format of the stations, the differences were minor.  The findings were consistent across station and market.  None of the stations examined were noticeable outliers.