Monday, October 19, 2009

Textual Analysis: CNN vs. Fox News


Is cable news enough?

The purpose of this analysis is to quantify the number and types of news articles shown on the two top television news networks, CNN and Fox News.  The news articles are broken down into five different categories: political, entertainment, financial, war and other.  The time frame of this study is from 1:00 to 4:00 pm CST on October 15th 2009.  During this time the news is dominated by three themes; America is at war in the Middle East, Barack Obama makes his first appearance in New Orleans as president to assess the progress rebuilding the city after hurricane Katrina and a six year old boy is believed to be trapped in a weather balloon floating across the Colorado sky.


Each of the networks begins the one o’clock hour with short discussion and stories covering mixed topics.  The President is expected to begin his speech in New Orleans at 1:15. 


The Fox News Channel touches on ten stories in the 15 minutes before the President’s speech begins with topics ranging from the President’s sinking approval rating to a story of a pregnant teen model on the cover of Teen Vogue magazine.  Other stories in this time frame include talk of the DOW Jones Industrial Average being on the rise, oil prices are at a one year high, prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay prison may be allowed to come to the United States for trial.  By and large the stories revolve around the President.


At 1:15 the focus is on the President as he gives his speech to a town hall meeting in New Orleans.  There are no interruptions.  Once the President has completed his speech the Fox News Channel breaks back to the studio for commentary.  They begin by talking about the health care reform but are soon interrupted by a breaking story of a six year old boy who is believed to be trapped inside a homemade weather balloon that has taken flight in Colorado.


The remainder of the time studied is dominated by this story completely and without commercial with the exception of a brief mention of the stock market at 3:11 pm.  By 4:00 the balloon is on the ground and there is verification that the boy is not inside and there is a strong sense that he never occupied the balloon at all.


CNN manages to cover two more stories in the 15 minutes leading up to the President’s speech bringing their total to 12.  Topics include hate crimes in New York city, prisoners in a Massachusetts jail getting H1N1 vaccine before residents of that state, foreclosure woes, no increase in Social Security payments in 2010 and a mention of the group of hikers who’ve been imprisoned in Iran.  There is also mention of the President but not nearly as much political talk as Fox News.


Just as with Fox News the programming turns to the President at 1:15.  Unlike Fox News, however, CNN interrupts the President’s speech at 1:42 with breaking news of the six year old boy and his balloon.  Coverage of the story is similar to that on Fox with the exception of the fact that CNN has more “experts” to express their opinion on the situation.  Focus doesn’t stray from the story of the boy in peril until it is confirmed that he is not aboard the balloon at 2:41.  Once this is known they discuss the possibility that he’d fallen out of the balloon but while there is no factual news to report on the balloon story they turn their focus to commentary of the President’s speech in New Orleans.  In the remaining time before 4:00 they cover many of the same topics as before the speech and breaking news and finish the time talking about the boy and his family.


Both networks covered similar topics and they both covered the two major stories in a similar fashion.  CNN did have more articles covered 20 versus Fox’s 16 but they were mostly reprisals of articles from before the two bigger news stories.  Coverage did, however, tackle a somewhat different set of themes. They each covered a similar number of political stories but aside from that Fox’s focus was on stories that pertained to America directly while CNN covered many stories that related mostly to foreign affairs.


So, according to their taglines, “More Americans get their news from CNN than from any other source” and Fox news is “Fair and balanced”.  Both of these statements may be true but, just to be safe, it’s a good idea to get some news from other outlets as well as these two seem to focus on what’s important to their viewers…not necessarily the average American.





Content analysis of three hours on the two major TV news channels.













Purpose:











To quantify the number of news articles covered by each network during a three hour period.













Unit of analysis:










Each individual news story is a unit of analysis.













Categories:










News articles are either political, entertainment, financial, war or other including stories of people and events.












Political Article - reports on any political story

Fox
7
CNN
8








Entertainment Article - reports on entertainment industry news
Fox
1
CNN
0








Financial Article - reports on stock market and oher financial news





Fox
3
CNN
1








War Article - reports on the war in the middle east







Fox
2
CNN
2








Other Articles - report on current events excluding politics and entertainment
Fox
1
CNN
9




















Total Articles - Fox 16 CNN 20












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