Middleton Vs. Madison


In 2004, we reported on a Ball State study of Midwestern TV viewers. And not just any Midwestern viewers, ones in Muncie, Ind., picked because that locale had been identified in sociological studies in the 1920s and ’30s as the typical middle American town.

Hence the dubbing of the surveys as the "Middleton" studies.

Ball State's conclusion, which rang true here, was that more people watched the news from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. than at any other time of day. Researchers said that suggested a major shift in viewing.

Not surprising. People are working longer and commuting farther, so they are getting up earlier and watching the news, getting home later and missing more of the early evening news, then going to bed earlier and missing more late news. People certainly aren't working less or commuting less now than they were three years ago. That's why morning news has been the biggest growth area.

Sounds like the world I live in. Sadly, it's not the world that the researchers at the University of Wisconsin's NewsLab seem to populate

Their study, like a similar one last year, looked only at the early evening and late news, then concluded that broadcasters weren't doing much election coverage.

Backed by a foundation whose agenda is to justify regulating campaign speech and reregulating media ownership, the NewsLab chose not to measure morning news, or midday news, or 4 p.m. news, or weekend public affairs programming, or debate coverage, or offers of free airtime at other times of day.

No reason to weaken the "two-by-four" they want the study to be in their attack on the media.

Researchers claim that the world they live in is not perfect, that if it were they would look at all time periods, that it is fair simply to carve out about an hour's worth of news on stations in nine markets and paint the industry with a broad brush. It isn't. Period. Exclamation point. End of story.

By John Eggerton