Types of News Media
The term “news media” spans a variety of entities that cover international, national, state and local news, and feature stories. By understanding the different types of media and the roles of their respective personnel, victim advocates can develop an effective media strategy and know how to contact the right person.
The news media generally fall into three general categories:
- Print media.
- Broadcast media.
- Web-based media.
Most print and broadcast media today have Web sites that augment their regular news and programming, and often feature a section devoted to the “community”—which is a good source to promote information about victims’ rights and services.
In addition, there are media and outreach venues that are specific to crime, victimization, justice, and public safety issues. These are sponsored by national and local organizations in both electronic-, Web-, and paper-based formats.
In 2003, there were 787 daily newspapers and 680 evening newspapers in the United States.20 20. 2004 Facts About Newspapers: A Statistical Summary of the Newspaper Industry, “Number of U.S. Daily Newspapers,” Newspaper Association of America, http://www.naa.org/info/facts04/dailynewspapers.html, accessed March 30, 2007.
(See bottom of page to activate link.) In large urban jurisdictions, many daily newspapers also publish a condensed daily version of their print publication that tends to focus more on local news and is free to the public.
Newspapers offer a variety of opportunities for victim assistance organizations to make or contribute to the news, publicize their activities, and seek community support:
- News stories often include experts, commentary, or background resources about timely issues that occur at the national, state, and local levels. Newspapers try to provide local angles to national news events, and always need local experts whom they can rely upon for information and referrals to other sources.
- Feature stories focus on the human element of life—people and programs that make a positive difference in a community; overcome adversity and succeed against significant odds; or make exemplary contributions to improving a community.
- Editorial pages feature letters-to-the-editor from readers that respond to past articles or comment on current issues within a community, and often publish editorial columns written by their readers.
- Community calendars—often a regular column published once a week—offer readers concise information about special events and activities.
- Some newspapers have a regular column devoted to volunteer opportunities where local agencies’ volunteer needs can be matched to readers’ interests.
Key newspaper personnel who are responsible for news, editorials, and community relations include—
- News editors. The number and types of newspaper editors will vary depending on its size:
- An executive editor (also called “editor in chief”) is the person responsible for overseeing the news division and newsroom.
- If the news and editorial divisions are separate within a newspaper, there may also be an editorial page editor who is responsible for editorials, opinion columns, and letters-to-the-editor.
- A managing editor oversees the day-to-day activities of the news division.
- Other editors—such as national, state, features, and photo editors—are specialized in their departments and oversight, and report to the managing editor.
- The city editor (also called “metro editor”) oversees local news.
- The copy editor runs the copy desk, which is responsible for checking spelling and grammar, and identifying anything that might be missing in a story. Upon completion, the copy desk will return an article to other editors to finalize.
- Reporters (also called “staff writers”) are the journalists who actually research, conduct interviews, and write stories. Some reporters are assigned to specialized “beats”(such as a “crime beat” or “court beat”). Others are general assignment reporters who cover a wide range of issues. Larger newspapers are more likely to have specialized beat reporters.
- Headline writers (primarily in larger newspapers) are responsible for creating headlines for all stories.
In 2003, there were 6,704 weekly newspapers in the United States.21 21. Ibid. Weekly newspapers (also called “weeklies”) generally cover smaller geographical areas than daily newspapers, or are published as “alternatives” to daily publications. Weeklies tend to focus more on local issues and events that are relevant to the geographic communities they serve. Like daily newspapers, weeklies include news, editorials, and feature stories, and often offer community calendars with brief information about local events and activities. The opportunities for victim and public awareness described above in “Daily Newspapers” also apply to weeklies, and it’s sometimes easier to get published in weekly newspapers because of their community focus.
This type of publication can be found primarily in large urban areas. Monthly newspapers are usually free, and often serve a specific geographical area with news, features, and editorials that are targeted to that community. They are a great source for publicizing activities or events within a specific community, as their readers live within and often take personal interest in the neighborhood in which they are published.
There are literally hundreds of magazines published in the United States that address news and general and special interest topics. Magazines are published nationally, regionally, and even locally.
There are 1,686 broadcast television stations and 308 cable television stations in the United States.22 22. Ibid. Similar to newspapers, television offers a wide range of public and victim awareness opportunities:
- Television news can be international, national, and/or local in scope. Local experts are often sought to make news or feature stories more relevant to a community.
- Human interest stories inform viewers of inspiring people and activities within the community.
- Some television news programs have editorial segments in which community leaders or spokespersons comment on the news of the day or issues that are of interest to the station’s viewers.
- Many television stations include “community calendars” in their newscasts and on their Web sites that provide information about community activities.
All television stations are required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to include public service announcements in their advertising.
Key television station personnel who are responsible for news and community relations include—
- The general manager (also called “station manager”) is responsible for overseeing all station operations.
- The assignment editor identifies the most important issues and news that a station will cover. He or she will set priorities, assign reporters to cover stories, and manage logistics such as live coverage or satellite feeds.
- The community relations director (also called “public affairs director”) identifies the needs of a community and tries to address them through programming and public service partnerships.
- The news director oversees a station’s news department and makes key decisions regarding the content of a newscast, staff assignments, and technical aspects related to a news broadcast.
- News reporters investigate, write, and report the news, coordinating closely with news directors and anchors.
- News anchors are the on-air talent who report the news. Many news anchors are also seasoned journalists with experience in reporting and producing news segments.
Local cable television stations are great venues for promoting crime victim-related issues. Some stations sponsor programs devoted to local issues and seek experts within a community for their news and feature programs.
There are 13,261 radio stations in the United States, including 4,811 commercial AM stations, 6,147 commercial FM stations, and 2,303 educational stations.23 23. U.S. Federal Trade Commission. (2002). Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission. The format of radio stations varies: their primary focus can be news, talk, music, or a combination. Some stations’ formats address targeted audiences (such as farm reports in rural communities or listeners in urban communities).
Outreach through radio stations is similar to that described above for newspapers and television stations. In addition—
- Radio public service announcements are a good venue for victim assistance organizations to promote their programs and activities.
- Talk radio stations and programs offer an open, “call-in” environment to address key public issues related to crime and victimization. Talk radio has been experiencing significant growth; radio listeners reported just under one and one-half hours (86 minutes) of radio news/talk listening on the average weekday.24 24. Talker’s Magazine Online. “The Talk Radio Research Project; American Radio News Audience Survey,” Talker’s Magazine Online, www.talkers.com/talkaud.html, accessed March 30, 2007. (See bottom of page to activate link.) A talk radio format allows:
- Victim advocates to send press releases or suggestions for on-air discussions, or to pitch themselves as expert guests.
- Opportunities to introduce and/or respond to on-air topics related to crime and victimization.
- Lively, interactive discussions about crime- and victim-related topics that can include experts and callers.
- Crime victims and survivors to present their unique perspectives about crime and its impact.
Key radio station personnel who are responsible for news and community relations include—
- The general manager is responsible for the overall operation of a radio station.
- The news director oversees the news operations of a station, and identifies issues of interest to listeners and assigns stories to reporters.
- Reporters investigate, write, and report on-air about local news and feature stories.
- Radio announcers are “the voice of the radio station” who introduce programming, news, music, and often read public service announcements.
- The promotion director shapes a station’s overall image, activities and programming, and coordinates tie-ins to special community events, as well as local organizations.
Wire services are news organizations that supply news reports, features, and human interest stories to both print and broadcast news media. The major wire services host Web sites with contact information for submitting press releases or ideas for stories, and some have local bureaus in major cities that focus more on state and local news.
All television and radio stations host Web sites that support their mission and programming. Most daily newspapers also publish versions of their publication on the Web. In both cases, Web sites not only document the original news and programming, but also augment it through opportunities for readers, viewers, and listeners to interact with the experts and/or people who are featured.
Increasingly, there are media whose only outlet is Web-based. They may address news, politics, and public policy and/or targeted issues.
The use of Web-based blogs is also increasing. A blog (abbreviation for “Weblog”) is a journal or diary that is posted online for viewing by the public. A blog contains an ongoing series of entries that are written from the most recent to the oldest. Blogs are opinion-oriented and provide authors with the opportunity to comment on themselves and their own experiences, current social or political issues, and/or respond to current events in the news.
Blogs are often attached to Web sites and specific issues, but can be independent online journals created by anybody for any purpose. Generally, there is no cost associated with sponsoring a blog and there are many Web sites (such as www.bloggers.com) that host blogs for free.
20. 2004 Facts About Newspapers: A Statistical Summary of the Newspaper Industry, “Number of U.S. Daily Newspapers,” Newspaper Association of America, http://www.naa.org/info/facts04/dailynewspapers.html, accessed March 30, 2007.
24. Talker’s Magazine Online. “The Talk Radio Research Project; American Radio News Audience Survey,” Talker’s Magazine Online, www.talkers.com/talkaud.html, accessed March 30, 2007.