Local NPR

Research about change in U.S. public radio newsrooms.

Attributes of Local NPR Stations: Local News Airtime

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Data from the 2012 MVM/UNR/USC survey of local NPR news stations show that almost half the stations in the system are producing an hour or less of local news per day (M-F).

The other half of the stations go much deeper into local news… with a quarter of stations producing more than 12 hours per week.

2012 MVM NPR Air Time Radio.001

 

Written by Michael V. Marcotte

May 8, 2013 at 8:28 am

Attributes of Local NPR Stations: Online Content

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Our 2012 survey of local public media newsrooms shows that most stations still have rather stunted commitments to local news online.

The charts in this post provide a break-out of NPR member station findings. (To see all public media results, see this summary piece.)

We begin with this overview picture of online content commitments. The chart is stacked from most prevalent to least prevalent content types (ascertained by gauging “commitment levels” to these options).

MVM 2012 NPR ONLINE Means.001

These 2012 data are similar to the findings gathered in 2010 (though not directly comparable, due to adjustments in methodology).

It should be noted that, while many stations show limited commitments to online news, the survey found a pent up dissatisfaction with online news. That data is here.

What follows is a chart by chart review of these online content types.

Audio

Radio stations specialize in providing audio, so this content type gets the greatest adherence by local public radio newsrooms. Almost two thirds of them have high or very high resource commitments to audio online.

2012 MVM NPR AUDIO.001

Text

Text is the dominant form of communicating news online. The degree of commitment to online text by local newsrooms is tantamount to their overall degree of commitment to online local news. Half of stations are there in a big way. A quarter of stations are doing very little.

2012 MVM NPR TEXT.001

Facebook

Forty percent of stations are highly committed to Facebook as a platform for local news. Another 32% have a medium level commitment.

2012 MVM NPR FACEBOOK.001

Photos

Radio newsrooms are gradually employing their eyes, not just their ears, in their news gathering. So far, only a third have a high commitment to photography in their digital news.

2012 MVM NPR PHOTOS.001

Twitter

Twitter is increasing its importance to local NPR station newsrooms. Commitment to the micro-blogging service is now almost as high as Facebook.

2012 MVM NPR TWITTER.001

Online Comments

As we continue down the list of online content types, there’s a big drop in commitment levels here in looking at online comments. Three quarters of the NPR stations show a low or lower devotion to managing the online comments of others.

2012 MVM NPR COMMENTS.001

Slideshows

While photographic slideshows pair well with audio news stories, local NPR stations express an overall low commitment to slideshows.

2012 MVM NPR SLIDESHOWS.001

Blogging

The NPR Argo Project advanced the virtues of local newsroom blogging on specialized content, but the overall system is not rushing to the use of local news blogging. Only 16% of stations claim a high or very high commitment. Over 70% of stations are on the low end of the chart.

2012 MVM NPR BLOGGING.001

Video

Considered one of the most shareable and promising forms of digital content, videos are also largely ignored by NPR station newsrooms. Three fourths of stations show low, very low or non-existent commitment to video.

2012 MVM NPR VIDEO.001

Other Social Media

Facebook and Twitter got high usage by local public radio stations, but other social networks… not so much.

2012 MVM NPR OTHER SOCIAL.001

Maps

Local news stories are greatly enhanced when we use all our digital muscles to convey information and drive interactivity. Maps are a great example of this. However, at least two-thirds of local NPR newsrooms are doing very little to take advantage of maps in their online journalism.

2012 MVM NPR MAPS.001

Data Visualization

Data visualization, like maps, help tell online stories and make complicated data simple to understand. A whopping 83% percent of local public radio newsrooms are largely bypassing data visualization content.

2012 MVM NPR DATA VIZ.001

User Generated Content

Very few stations are endeavoring to cull content provided by the public.

2012 MVM NPR UGC.001

Crowd Sourcing

We thought this chart on crowd sourcing might have higher levels of commitment because of the Public Insight Network that many stations are using for news research. But the commitment levels are among the lowest of all online content types in the survey.

2012 MVM NPR CROWD.001

Online Polls

The least popular of online content types is the online poll. Almost 90% of station newsrooms have better things to do.

2012 MVM NPR POLLS.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Attributes of Local NPR Stations: On Air Content

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Our new survey of local public media newsrooms finds a solid commitment to daily coverage, a broad effort to provide depth coverage, and rather sporadic levels of deep engagement and intensive production.

The charts below provide a break-out of NPR member station survey responses on their depth of commitment to local news broadcast elements. (To see all public media results, see this overview piece.)

Two years ago, we took a look at what local NPR stations were calling local news on their airwaves. While we modified the survey and the analysis somewhat, in general the picture looks quite similar.

Here is the stack of local news program types we asked about in the 2012 Survey of Stations (MVM/UNR/USC 2012) — ranked by their mean score. The higher the score, the more prevalent the commitment of resources to this programming type.

MVM 2012 NPR On Air Means.001

This hierarchy of commitments ranks about the same as it did in 2010 — though, as mentioned, the methodology changed to cover more program types and to give us a more refined look.

Here are the charts for each program type.

Interviews

Interviews are such a key element of original news gathering, it’s great to see they rank highest among all NPR stations as a local news staple.

2012 MVM NPR Interviews.001

Newscasts

Most stations are heavily vested in newscasts as the vehicle for their local news.

2012 MVM NPR Newscasts.001

News Features

The 3-5 minute feature is a fundamental unit of news in public radio, which devotes more time to issue coverage. Over half the NPR stations have a high or very high commitment to feature reporting.

2012 MVM NPR Features.001

Breaking News

Breaking news coverage ranks a lot higher than one might guess, given the emphasis on depth coverage on NPR stations. Yet, these radio stations are assuming a larger role in the daily coverage of their communities and that requires some willingness to get on top of breaking news.

2012 MVM NPR Breaking News.001

Beat Reporting

Beat reporting is a sign of a depth and commitment to original journalism. This is less of a program type than it is an organizational approach to news, but it is fundamental to how news is gathered, packaged and presented. Since beats generally require larger newsrooms, there’s a divide in the data.

2012 MVM NPR Beats.001

News Series

Another sign of healthy commitment to depth of coverage is the “news series,” where a topic is too big to be covered in one report, so it is managed in multiple installments. A quarter of stations have a high or very high commitment to series.

2012 MVM NPR Series.001

Specialty Programs

Local stations serve their communities well when they can tailor content to meet local needs. This category shows a rather healthy commitment to specialty programs — whether they be segments on arts, health, business, etc. Sometimes these elements are more attractive to sponsors, which may help fuel wider adoption.

2012 MVM NPR Specialty Prog.001

On Air Calendars

These on-air calendar of events used to be a larger staple of public radio. Websites are better at delivering that kind of information. However, many small stations still provide them.

2012 MVM NPR Calendar.001

Talk Shows

This chart is rather flat indicating that talk shows are not uniformly popular in public radio. But they rank as high or very high commitments from almost a third of stations. In general, talk shows indicate a station’s larger staffing commitment to local news and public affairs.

2012 MVM NPR Talk Show.001

News Specials

This chart shows a low commitment to this kind of local news programming. The news special is typically a timely, one-off, intensively produced program. News stations don’t need to resort to news specials if they are doing a good job of daily coverage, feature coverage, series coverage, beat coverage, etc.

2012 MVM NPR News Specials.001

PSA’s

Public Service Announcements aren’t news but they fulfill a local community service commitment, and sometimes they are handled by newsrooms. More than half of stations have little or no commitment to them.

2012 MVM NPR PSA.001

Town Hall Meetings

In an age of social media, the town hall meeting is more anachronistic than ever. Seventy percent of NPR member stations make little or no commitment to hosting or airing them.

2012 MVM NPR Town Hall.001

Live Reports or Live Remotes

Radio is a medium for immediacy, but two-thirds of local NPR stations are hardly committed to this form of news coverage.

2012 MVM NPR Live Reports.001

On Air Magazines

Most stations don’t produce on-air news magazines, which tend to be labor intensive. Yet, a fourth of stations do have the resources or commitment to produce them.

2012 MVM NPR On Air Magazine.001

Documentaries

The local radio news documentary has been a fading form for years. The most remarkable thing in this chart is that some 12% of stations are committed to them.

2012 MVM NPR Documentaries.001

Commentaries

Radio commentaries give opinion leaders access to the airwaves to provide perspective on the news. This was the least popular form of local news programming found in the survey.

2012 MVM NPR Commentary.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Written by Michael V. Marcotte

April 24, 2013 at 11:39 am

NPR Stations See Need to Improve Local Online News

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New survey results from MVM Consulting show NPR stations far less satisfied with their online local news than with their local news on air.

The data show 72% of NPR stations are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their on air local news programming. Only 10% were at all dissatisfied with the broadcast product.

2012 MVM NPR Satisfaction On Air.001
But when the same question was asked about each station’s online local news content, the responses were far less effusive. A third of stations expressed dissatisfaction.

2012 MVM NPR Satisfaction Online.001
As reported earlier, stations are reporting efforts to expand their online news staffing and content. But for now there’s a significant gap between their levels of satisfaction, radio versus online.

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Written by Michael V. Marcotte

April 23, 2013 at 9:51 pm

NPR Stations Continue Growing Local News

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A new survey by MVM Consulting shows NPR member stations around the U.S. are growing their local news staffs, increasing their local news airtime, and beefing up their local online news content.

The survey reveals high levels of actual growth last year and similar levels of predicted growth this year.

Expansion of Local NPR Newsroom Staffing

The growth begins with news staffing. More than 40% of NPR member stations grew their full-time local news staffs slightly or significantly in 2012.

2012 NPR Staff Change.001
While 50% reported no change, only 8% saw decreases in staffing.

Looking ahead to 2013, another 38% of NPR stations are optimistic they’ll be growing full-time news staffs. Only 4% expect they’ll be downsizing. The largest share, 58%, expect to maintain current levels of newsroom staffing.

2013 NPR Staff Change.001
These are healthy signs — even healthier than the growth estimates of 2010, when a similar survey found a fourth (27%) of all public radio stations grew their local news staffing, while 14% had cut back during the national recession.

Major Increases in Online Content

The survey also found an ummistakeable emphasis on advancing local news online.

Almost two-thirds of local NPR stations say they increased (slightly or significantly) their local online news content last year.

2012 NPR Online Change.001
That growth emphasis continues in projections for 2013. Seventy-one percent of stations say they expect to increase their local online news offerings this year.

2013 NPR Online Change.001

Local News Airtime on the Upswing

The survey also asked station leaders about changes in the amount of local news or public affairs on air.

While 60% reported no change in 2012, a third of stations said they expanded local news on air.

2012 NPR Air Time Change.001
And, as with staffing and online content, the trend is predicted to continue in 2013. Forty-five percent of stations say they will increase local news airtime this year.

2013 NPR Air Time Change.001

About the Survey

The 2012 Survey of Stations was conducted by Michael V. Marcotte of MVM Consulting in coordination with the University of Nevada School of Journalism, where Marcotte is a visiting professor. Collaborating on the invitation only, online survey was PhD candidate Sandra Evans of The Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. 136 stations participated, 103 of them were NPR members.

Local Public Media On Air News Time by News Budget

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I just thought this data visualization was cool. It uses an area chart to compare public radio stations.

The x axis are budget categories of stations. Small budgets to the left. Large budgets to the right.

The y axis are the percentage of stations in that budget category.

The colorized data, as shown in the legend, are the “average local news hours per week.”

So what looks like a colorful cubist bird diving past jagged mountains is simply this: the lower budgeted stations do fewer hours of local news on-air, and the higher budgeted stations do more hours of local news on-air each week!

 

Weekly On Air News Time by Local Public Media News Budget

Written by Michael V. Marcotte

April 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Gender Inequality in Public Media Newsrooms

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Looks like we have a ways to go in local public radio and television. Like the rest of the media, women are underrepresented in our newsrooms.

What prompted me to take a dive into these never-before-reported numbers was the recent study by the The Women’s Media Center, The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2013, which reported, “stubborn gender inequality in the ways that women are employed and represented in news, entertainment and technology-related media…”

Thanks to detailed reports filed by public stations… we can begin to examine the composition of local public broadcasting newsrooms.

The theory is simple: women make up 51% of the population, so their presence in media should be comparable. Where it isn’t (and it isn’t), discrimination may be in play.

While the WMC study includes a section on U.S. radio and television, it lumps public broadcasters together with commercial. Moreover, the data used is from an annual survey by Hofstra University’s Bob Papper. Frankly, the survey sample is dominated by commercial stations, so we can’t see with high certainty the state of female employment in public media.

Until now. Thanks to detailed reports filed by public stations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, we can begin to examine the composition of local public broadcasting newsrooms. (For years, the CPB has requested staffing data from stations, but beginning in 2010, it began asking for much more granular data about station journalists.)

 Women Journalists Employed in Local Public Radio and TV

All the data here are from 2011, the most recent available.

As you can see, right off the bat, when you lump all 3000 news employees from all local stations together (and these numbers do represent over 90% of the actual local public radio and TV workforce), there’s a basic disparity.

Gender-All-PubNews

It gets more interesting when we break out the two main sectors of public media — radio and TV.

Radio is the bigger employer of journalists, by a 2-to-1 margin. This is understandable because there are many more radio stations than TV stations. But, perhaps more importantly, local public radio provides the base of the NPR News distribution pyramid; those stations are growing their local journalism ranks.

So, how are women faring in local public radio newsrooms? Here’s the big picture:

Gender-All-PubRadio

The employment ratio between men and women is better than local public media as a whole.

Of course, that must mean that public TV is the bigger culprit in the gender disparity.

Here’s the local public TV news staffing break-out:

Gender-All-PubTV

Whoa! This is comparable to what the Women’s Media Center found in commercial television. In fact, it’s worse. Women’s share of the commercial television news workforce is closer to 40%.

Public radio, on the other hand, is doing better than commercial radio in approaching gender balance in news. (Public radio: 46% women. Commercial radio: 33% women.)

Women in Leadership Roles in Local Public Radio and TV Newsrooms

One area where the Women’s Media Center was particularly critical of U.S. media was for the dearth of women in executive roles. In general, those percentages show even greater disparity.

Looking at the data from public radio and TV, we can count those women who hold news leadership roles (news director, executive producer, senior editor, senior producer, managing editor, etc.).

We’ll look at radio news first.

Gender-PubRad-Leaders

Sure enough, the disparity increases. (The “non-leader” ratio is 47 to 53, women to men.)

Here’s an even deeper look at what comprises this leadership sector in local public radio news:

Gender-PubRad-Ldr-Detail

You can see that women outnumber men in some of the newsroom leadership roles, but not in the all-important news director (ND) category.

Let’s look at the same charts for local public TV.

Gender-PubTV-Leaders

As expected, the gender gap is worse when we isolate the leadership roles. (The “nonleader” ratio in public TV news is 39 to 61, women to men.)

In the break-out below, you can also see that in public TV, unlike public radio, it’s the executive producer that serves as top news boss in most local PBS stations:

Gender-PubTV-Ldr-Detail

Only one category shows women holding a numerical advantage — Senior Editor — but there are only 7 in the whole country. And the advantage is only by one.

Women in On-Air News Roles in Local Public Media

Finally, there’s the question of women being seen and heard in prominent on-air positions at the local NPR or PBS station.

Again, the WMC study didn’t look at public media, but it found that talk radio hosts were overwhelmingly male. And in newspapers, male bylines outnumbered female bylines, 3-1.

Another pass of our local public media data extracts the ratio of women to men in such on-air presenter roles as host and anchor.

Here’s the male-female split for all local public media journalists combined:

Gender-All-PubNews-Hosts

Still, a pretty big disparity.

Again, we wonder if public radio with its larger workforce is doing better in gender apportionment than the smaller staffs in public TV.

First, public radio news hosts:

Gender-PubRad-Hosts

As one can see, public radio stations are favoring male air hosts over women hosts nearly 2-1.

Public TV does a bit better:

Gender-PubTV-Hosts

 Bottom Line: Gender Inequity Persists Even in Public Media

Somehow, one would expect public media newsrooms to be doing much better than their commercial counterparts. Afterall, they’re tethered to universities and non-profits with more accountability requirements than the private sector. They tend to be bastions of educated, progressive thinkers. And there’s no mistaking years of systemwide efforts at creating a more diverse, women-friendly workforce.

So, while they ARE doing better than their commercial counterparts, public media stations still have work to do if their male-female journalist balance is to mirror the larger society.

As Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, was quoted: “While media is the most powerful economic and cultural force today, it still falls far too short in its representation of women… the numbers demonstrate that the glass ceiling extends across all media platforms… we’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story.”

Written by Michael V. Marcotte

March 17, 2013 at 3:07 pm

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