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Week 8: Tonight's Local News

I chose to watch the 6pm broadcast of KARE11 news this evening, something I do several times a week. Tonight, however, I paid close attention to the amount of time given to the types of stories covered. While I often feel inundated by news coverage of the Iraq War and the 2008 election, I was surprised that the only reference to either topic during the 30 minute broadcast was twenty seconds’ worth of time referring to two American contractors’ bodies found this week. They were mentioned because of their affiliation with a Minnesota contractor whose body has not been found. Perhaps I am not as inundated as I think.

KARE 11’s headline story tonight was about a missing autistic boy, Matthew Boisclaire, in Minnetonka. They spent two minutes covering the story and included an interview with his mother. I think they chose this story as their lead because, as Beach points out, local channels pride themselves on “breaking news? (96) coverage, and other channels were unlikely to be leading with the same story. Perhaps the decision to air this story over the headline chosen this morning (I assume there had been another, as he’d only been missing since school let out) helped to find him promptly, as there was an update twenty minutes into the program: Matthew had been found in a park; he’d taken the wrong bus. I like the happy ending, but since he was found 20 minutes after the story aired, I wonder: was that news? Albeit the boy was autistic, but don’t boys get on the wrong bus every day without making the news? He took up 2:30 seconds of the broadcast, nearly 10% of the evening’s news.

Besides the brief mention of the American contractors’ bodies being found in Iraq, the remainder of the broadcast was local. The second story was about a bridge in St. Cloud being closed due to gusset plate weakness. It was a 2:15 spot and included an interview with a man whose business is affected by the decrease in traffic. I think that interviewing a person affected by the event, as Matthew’s mother was interviewed just minutes before, is a tactic local (and national) news uses to tug on the viewers’ heartstrings and get them emotionally invested in the story.

One minutes and thirty-six seconds were given to the story about an inmate named Hawkins and his interview about getting beat up by Diggins. The story went so fast that I missed why it was included in the news, as I was still taking notes on the previous story. I suppose it was important, but I figure jail fights happen all the time without making the news, so why did this one?

One minute was given to a group of anti-war protestors requesting a permit to protest during the Republican National Convention. I didn’t know that you needed a permit to protest, so I guess that was news to me! After that nearly 8-minute barrage of news, I watched 30 seconds of teasers, or previews, of what’s coming in the next segment. I should add here that I watch KARE 11 news rather than FOX 9 news because I can’t stand how much time they spend “teasing.? FOX 9 runs a 1 hour news broadcast but spends so much time “teasing? the next segment that they might be able to fit the news into 30 minutes if they cut the previews.

I did not time the commercials, as I spent it taking notes on what I’d just watched. The second segment ran 5:12 and consisted of 18 seconds about a meat-packing plant in Arkansas (okay, so two national stories, but they comprised less than one minute). Then two entire minutes were spent on George Clooney and Rene Zellweger’s visit to Duluth today to promote their movie, “Leatherheads.? Here’s the entertainment part of the news that producers think the audiences love. Two minutes were spent on their local appearance, clips from the movie (it airs Friday) and interviews with local Duluth fans. This clip was one of the teasers prior to the 6:00 hour and in-between segments, so embedding this clip in the middle of the broadcast was a wise decision, as it kept movie fans watching.

Three minutes were devoted to weather, which I think is pretty normal. Belinda Jensen embodies Beach’s description of the “happy talk? (94) commentary local anchors use. She smiled, joked, and apologized for the un-spring-like weather she was predicting for the week ahead. Another twelve seconds were given to previews for the remainder of the broadcast.

Upon return, 20 seconds were given to update the audience on Matthew’s whereabouts, as previously mentioned. I suspect that a story was removed for the update because, at the very end of the broadcast, Blaine High School Honors German class was pictured smiling and waving, as the music indicating that the broadcast was over played, with no explanation. Four minutes were then given to sports coverage – all local, about the Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan signing, spring training and roster moves, the Vikings, and the NCAA Gopher Women’s basketball team. They fit quite a bit into four minutes! Only 8 seconds were given to previews for the last segment; a lot, I think, considering what they covered.

Upon the last return of the evening news, KARE 11 listed their evening TV show line-up (8 seconds), then another human-interest story: the “running of the brides? in an Atlanta bridal shop (49 seconds), a 1:13 recap of the 5 day forecast, and then, as I mentioned, the Blaine German class waving good-bye.

There was not one story updating the listener on the Iraq War or the 2008 Presidential Election, as I’d expected. However, some of the coverage made me wonder if it really was news: a boy getting on the wrong bus and a man getting beat up in jail? Hmm, maybe it was a slow news day? I suppose if anything tragic had happened to the boy, or if something worse happens to the man in jail, KARE 11 would have the proud distinction of covering it first. Way to promote tragedy!