Weekly media study to include more than a hundred blogs
More than a hundred blogs are to be included in a new weekly media study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), writes USA Today. Though they will be separated from the established media in the study.
According to PEJ, the News Coverage Index will be “the largest effort ever to measure and analyze the American news media on a continuing basis”.
About four dozen traditional media sources (print, network TV, cable, online, and radio) will be scanned continuously, and the result will be presented in a weekly report at journalism.org.
The initiative is an attempt to provide an empirical basis for cataloguing and understanding what a wide swath of media offer the American public at a time of growing debate about the press’ influence, standards and economic foundation.
What about the bloggers, then? Well, they’re a part of a “series of secondary indices”, and collected in a Blogger Index. Other things meassured in this series are “People in the News” and “a Talk Show Index from cable and radio programming”.
Bringing together the different results – and pairing them with the Pew Research Center‘s News Interest Index, an index showing how closely people are following certain news stories, based on questionaires with respondents – will let the researchers find out more about the public’s response to news stories.
These twin indices of what the media are covering, and how the public is responding will offer an unprecedented pair of tools to understand the degree to which journalists and citizens are in sync—or in disagreement—over what constitutes important news.
PEJ researchers hope to discover whether there are gaps between what ‘mainstream media consider news and what the public thinks is important and what they want to talk about. Over time, that will start to show up,’ PEJ associate director Mark Jurkowitz says to USA Today.
Very interesting indeed, if that can be the result. But what I didn’t get was how the Blogger Index will be used if the public’s response will be taken from the News Interest Index. It does say that the NII will be new and expanded, but not exactly how.
USA Today writes: “Blogs will be launched later, analyzed separately from the main index but compiled in a way that comparisons can be drawn.”
Even more interesting to see is how mainstream media will react if it turns out there are indeed great differences between what they are reporting and the interests of the public. Will they stick their head in the sand, or actually change?
This raises further questions. When using the Blogger Index in comparison studies, what conclusions could be drawn? Is the number of people in the blogosphere responding to a piece of news a measurement of how interested the public is?
How much should mainstream media change, based on these results? A story about Britney Spears not wearing underwear of course creates more buzz than reportage of a war in a far-away country. Does that mean that the public wants the first and not the other? Or is there a mission for established media beyond the creation of buzz? (Yep, these are extremes, but does not responding always mean you’re not interested in a subject? Could it not also be that you simply don’t have enough knowledge about it yourself to be able to contribute, or value the reporting?)
What would be interesting to see, are the number of occasions when MSM will have to back on stories because of blog coverage proving them to be inaccurate or have flaws. And how much MSM uses blogs as sources for news.