ZILLMAND HUMANINT 93 RTVJ TV Human Interest Story Effects
Effects of Human-Interest Stories in Broadcast News
Rhonda J. Gibson
Virginia L. Ordman
Charles F. Aust
University of Alabama
Running head: HUMAN-INTEREST STORIES
Respondents were exposed to a newscast, composed of bad-news
that ended (a) without additional reports, (b) with a human-interest
story, or (c) with a humorous, amusing story. Following exposure to
newscast, respondents rated (a) the severity of the social issues
addressed in the bad-news reports, (b) the likelihood of matters
worsening, (c) the extent to which the issues might affect them
personally, and (d) their affective reactions to the reports. The
newscast-closing story fostered perceptions of diminished severity of
social issues. Additionally, respondents reported feeling less worried
during exposure to the reports. The newscast- closing human-
story failed to produce similar effects, and neither soft-news item
influenced judgments of personal vulnerability.
Effects of Human-Interest Stories in Broadcast News
Television newscasts, for the most part, are composed of a series
fact-based, so-called hard news items, most of which can be
bad news (Carroll, 1985; Whetmore, 1987). Content analyses have
demonstrated a heavy emphasis on bad news in both network
(Stone & Grusin, 1984) and local newscasts, although local newscasts
appear to be less bad-news-oriented than their national counterparts
(Stone, Hartung, & Jensen, 1987). So-called soft news, or human-
material with limited social relevance, accounts for a relatively small
portion of broadcast news; for example, Graber (1984) observed that
human-interest stories on the average represent less than nine
the topics featured in the early evening newscasts of the three major
A considerable amount of criticism has been directed at
for their apparent preoccupation with news of the negative, morbid,
evil (Galician & Vestre, 1987; Jacobs, 1990; Kneale, 1988). However,
prevalence of bad news also continues to be staunchly defended. It
argued that bad news is particularly informative and newsworthy
because it alerts viewers to potential risks and dangers (Blackman,
Hornstein, Divine, O'Neill, Steil, & Tucker, 1977; Galtung & Ruge,
But it has been suggested alternatively that it is the viewer who is
to titillating and sensational bad news, that the viewer would be less
satisfied without it, and that the news media merely provide what
viewer wants (Bower, 1985; Gans, 1979; Jacobs, 1990).
Irrespective of any justification of the prevalence of bad news, it
appears that both national and local news programs are moving
the inclusion of more human-interest stories. A content analysis of
Vanderbilt Television News Abstracts from 1972 through 1987
that networks increased their use of soft news (from an average low
59.06 seconds in 1976 to a high of 2 minutes and 20 seconds in
and that the human-interest pieces were almost always placed in the
one-third of the broadcast, often into the very last slot (Scott &
Broadcast journalists have intuitively stated that the increased
soft news is designed to help counter the possible negative effects on
their audiences of exposure to large amounts of bad news. Several
before the trend toward more soft news was documented, one news
analyst commented that "it has become a law for the late- night news
close with an upbeat feature story that sends people off to bed
that, despite its problems, the world is still a safe and positive
(Bennett, 1983, p. 5). The upbeat or even comical stories now often
in national and local newscasts are said to serve as a "release from
deathwatch that modern life has become" (Marc, 1989, p. 1). Some
analysts even believe that news people themselves prefer to end on
positive note and that "the morale in the newsroom always rises
good, humorous closer is available" (Gans, 1979, p. 157).
few news analysts claim that networks have felt pressure from the
to include more good news in their broadcasts and that the trend is a
revenue-enhancing strategy (Scott & Gobetz, 1992). These analysts
that local stations especially have felt pressure to include fluff, such
weatherman with "personality" or a rough-around-the-edges
sportscaster, to provide comic relief from the day-to-day diet of bad
news (Postman, 1985).
Regardless of motives for the shift toward increased use of soft
in light of the pervasiveness of television news as an information
its impact on viewers is of great importance. People in Western
industrial societies get an overwhelming amount of information,
particularly about national and world issues, from television news
(Gunter, 1987; Roper, 1985; Stempel, 1991). Every weekday, more
100 million Americans tune into either a network or local television
newscast, if not both (Robinson & Levy, 1986). Through television
the public receives a variety of messages about the condition of the
unexperienced social world. In this sense, broadcast news often acts
surrogate for personal contact and has a great influence on how
perceive their world and its issues (Graber, 1984; Gunter, 1987;
& Levy, 1986).
How viewers process and respond to bad news has been explored
numerous investigations. It has been demonstrated, for instance,
viewers may experience rather intense negative affect when exposed
bad news (Aust, 1985; Veitch & Griffitt, 1976), and that these
reactions interfere with and reduce the acquisition of subsequently
presented information (Mundorf, Drew, Zillmann, & Weaver, 1990;
Mundorf, Zillmann, & Drew, 1991; Scott & Goff, 1988). It has also
shown that intense reactions to bad news can alter the retroactive
retroactive-proactive perception of contiguous but independent news
stories, making them appear less negative or more positive than they
actually were (Mundorf & Zillmann, 1988). Bad news, moreover, has
been shown to be better remembered than good news (Furnham &
Less attention has been paid to the effects of good news. LaKind
(1974) found that women who were exposed to good news were
likely to judge an alleged murderer to be innocent than those who
heard bad news. Likewise, in a study by Hornstein, LaKind, Frankel,
Manne (1976), it was shown that exposure to a good-news story
increased the likelihood that respondents would perceive a stranger
someone who was positively oriented toward them. These
were more willing to help and to expect help from the stranger than
those who had been exposed to bad news.
Such research raises the question of whether good news that
less immediately follows bad news is capable of diminishing the
threatening quality of the bad news. Is it possible that good news--
as innocuous, entertaining, and amusing human-interest stories at
end of a newscast--has the capacity to provide relief from noxious
produced by threatening news stories received earlier?
Intuitively, amusing stories should function best as a potential
antidote to threat and resulting apprehensions. The ancient concept
comic relief offers itself for consideration. In his treatise Poetics,
Greek philosopher Aristotle pondered the possibility that comedy
serve the release of strong emotions, such as those induced by
to tragedy or other negative events. Sorell (1972), a theater
notes that comic relief has been used with varying skill by most
dramatists, including Shakespeare. He commented that Shakespeare
skillfully injected humorous scenes into tragedies with the explicit
purpose of stopping for a laugh. According to the drama theorist
(1968), any material that makes us smile--not just the overtly
humorous--serves a comic-relief function. Moreover, clinical
psychologists continue to contend that comedy can serve as a safety-
valve, providing relief from anger, anxiety, depression, and tension
Contemporary psychology of humor fosters similar expectations.
has been suggested (Dixon, 1980; Lefcourt & Martin, 1986; McGhee,
that amusement creates a frame of mind in which recalled,
and presently experienced threats and aversions are belittled. Such
belittlement is thought to derive from light-hearted appraisals of
considered, noxious conditions included. In support of this proposal,
has been demonstrated, in fact, that humor is capable not only of
diminishing aversion in thought, but of helping tolerate actually felt
physical discomfort (Cogan, Cogan, Waltz, & McCue, 1987; Zillmann,
Rockwell, Schweitzer, & Sundar, in press). It may be expected,
that humorous, amusing material has the capability of diminishing
gloomy outlook occasioned by the preceding consumption of bad
Furthermore, theory in social cognition (Fiske & Taylor, 1984)
suggests that the proposed gloom-diminishing effect of humorous
may also be achieved by enlightening, uplifting good-news stories. If
last-placed good news manages to place the viewer into a good mood,
mood should influence the retrospective perception of the preceding
news items, showing negative events in a less negative light.
Even comparatively mild affective reactions have been found to
mood; and mood, in turn, has been found to exert a marked influence
information processing and judgment (Clark & Williamson, 1989;
1984). It has been shown, for instance, that good mood-- at the time
negative affective events and experiences are retrieved from
diminishes the negative valence of the recalled events and
(Forgas, 1990; Isen & Diamond, 1989; Schwarz, 1987; Teasdale &
Given such evidence, it seems justified to expect that good mood,
induced by exposure to good news, will foster a less negative
of social issues conveyed by preceding bad news. The question that
be raised, however, concerns the power of good news to induce good
moods. The cited psychological experiments created good news
good happenings to the research participants. Media-disseminated
news, in contrast, is usually good news for someone other than the
viewer. Seeing someone win a million dollars in the lottery, for
is obviously a joyous occasion for the winner, but viewers may react
envy and the disappointment that their draw failed them. The
proverbial uplifting story, in which someone succeeds against all
a similar mixed blessing in that viewers who fight comparable odds
become acutely aware of their failure to overcome them. The effect
so-called good news on mood, then, might be illusory and is open to
empirical exploration. Meanwhile, it would seem prudent, however,
assume that good news may have varying effects on mood, but on
occasion fosters positive affective reactions of moderate intensity.
In predicting effects of newscast-concluding good news, including
amusing stories, we therefore treat amusing items as more reliable
more potent inducers of positive affect than nonamusing positive
H1: Exposure to a good-news story immediately following
a series of bad-news stories diminishes the negative affect evoked
exposure to the bad news as such. This effect is particularly strong
comical good-news stories.
H2: Exposure to a good-news story immediately following
a series of bad-news stories fosters appraisals that diminish the
magnitude of the social problems addressed in the preceding bad-
stories. This effect is particularly strong for comical good-news
H3: Exposure to a good-news story immediately following
a series of bad-news stories fosters appraisals that diminish
assessments of the future of the social problems addressed in the
preceding bad-news stories. This effect is particularly strong for
H4: Exposure to a good-news story immediately following
a series of bad-news stories fosters diminished concern about
consequences of the social problems addressed in the preceding bad-
news stories. This effect is particularly strong for comical good-news
Respondents were exposed to a series of four bad-news items.
series concluded (a) with a humorous, amusing item, (b) with a
human-interest item, or (c) was presented without subsequent item
control condition. Following exposure to the newscast, respondents
indicated their perception of (a) the severity of the social issues
presented in the initial four news items, (b) the likelihood of matters
getting worse, and (c) the extent to which the issue might have
implications for them. Thereafter, they rated their affective
the four bad-news items. In the conditions in which subsequent
was shown, they also rated their reactions to the closing news item.
In a concluding-item (none, human interest, humor) by
gender design, gender of respondent was accepted because of likely
gender differences in the response to threats and dangers presented
the news (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974).
Seventy-five undergraduate students, 35 men and 40 women,
as voluntary research participants. They were enrolled in an
introductory communication course and received extra course credit
participation. Participants were randomly assigned to conditions.
were tested in mixed-gender groups of about eight persons per
Respondents came to a research theatre. They were welcomed by
experimenter who informed them about their assignment. They
told that they would partake in a study on broadcast news. They
be shown a newscast composed of various stories that had been aired
recently. After exposure to the entire newscast, they would be asked
respond to the various issues presented in the news reports.
Respondents were then shown one of the three newscast versions
large five-by-eight foot screen. The bad news featured was world
economic news, and news about violent crime. Specifically, the
sequence of reports was presented: (1) violence in the Israel-
conflict (2:36 min:sec), (2) random highway shootings (2:09 min:sec),
the bleak job market for college graduates (2:53 min:sec), and (4)
increasing crime in shopping malls (4:16 min:sec). The human-
story showed children performing at Carnegie Hall (2:32 min:sec).
humorous story featured impersonations of outgoing and incoming
national politicians and jokes about them by well-known comedians
min:sec). All news items had been aired in the month prior to
Both closing items had been aired as closing items. Immediately
following exposure, respondents indicated (a) their perception of the
severity of the social problem addressed in a news report, (b) their
pessimism about future developments, and (c) their concern with
personal consequences. They did so for all negative news items,
following the order of presentation. Respondents then indicated
affective reactions to the news items at the time of exposure, also
following the order of presentation. In the two conditions closing
soft news, these items were rated last.
Finally, respondents were debriefed and thanked for their
in the research.
The experimental newscast consisted of four (in the control
or five (in the conditions with closing soft news) unedited news
that had been aired on network or cable newscasts.
The first news report, taken from Cable News Network (CNN),
concerned a renewal of violence in the Mideast after the funeral of
Israeli farmer who had been killed by Palestinians. The focus of the
story was the continued violence between the Israelis and the
Palestinians. The newscast emphasized a widening gap between
groups, as the date for resuming peace talks was approaching.
The second news report, taken from NBC, discussed the rising tide
highway violence. Although it focused on the dangers of traveling on
particular Florida interstate highway, interviews with victims of
violence from around the United States and Canada were featured.
References to increased security from police and the National Guard
included. An angry motorist carrying a weapon in his vehicle was
pictured. A woman who described her puzzlement at being a victim
such violence, and the apparent random nature of highway violence,
The third news report, also taken from NBC, concerned the dismal
outlook for college graduates. Describing college graduates in '92 and
as facing the worst job outlook in 30 years, the piece featured
with recent graduates whose job-hunting efforts had been
Lengthy waiting lists for interviews at college campuses and
among graduates for a limited number of jobs were described. That
in five college graduates will take jobs requiring only a high school
diploma was also mentioned.
The fourth news report, taken from CBS, asked viewers: "How safe
you be at the mall?" This story described reports of armed robbery,
kidnaping, and rape at shopping malls where security is often lax or
nonexistent. An interview with a rape victim, a young woman who
kidnaped at knifepoint from a typical West Coast mall, stressed that
anyone who shops at malls is at risk. The woman described herself
camera as an average person going to the mall. An interview with a
who was robbed while taking his family to a mall restaurant showed
women are not the only victims. Although the story described some
malls where security is closely monitored, it clearly suggested to
the need for caution. Vigilance, awareness, and attentiveness were
for shoppers. Likely locations for an assault were pointed out. There
too many victims like the woman who was raped, according to the
story. Her appearance on camera, she said, is to help prevent others
being victims of such crimes.
The human-interest story, broadcast by CNN, featured in an
admiring manner a group of children who were invited to perform at
Carnegie Hall. The young musicians, whose ages ranged from five to
years, were described as achieving at a tender young age what few
musicians have in a lifetime.
The humorous story, taken from NBC, had aired shortly after the
presidential election. It included interviews with, and performances
popular stand-up comedians such as Jay Leno, David Letterman, and
Saturday Night Live cast members. The comedians jokingly
loss of two favorite targets for ridicule: President Bush and,
Vice-President Quayle. They also appraised the potential for ridicule
key personnel in the new administration. The report featured
vignettes in which political topics or politicians were targets of the
humor. Although most of the humorous disparagement was directed
the departing cast of characters, some was directed at then
Elect Clinton. (Note that the present study was conducted and
while now- President Clinton was still president-elect.)
Respondents answered the following questions about the issues
presented in the four bad-news stories: (1) "In your opinion, how
a problem is ___ ?" (2) "How likely do you think it is that ___ will
worse in the near future?" (3) "How likely is it that ___ will affect
personally?" The prompts indicated "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,"
"highway violence," "the job market," and "crime at shopping malls."
Following each question was an 11- point scale on which respondents
recorded their perceptions. The scales, which were marked at all
integers, were labeled "not at all serious" or "not at all likely" at
"extremely serious" or "extremely likely" at 10.
The same scales were used for the ratings of affect in response to
story of the newscast. Specifically, respondents were asked to rate
each story made them feel. The following 16 statements were used
define the rating scales: It was upsetting. It cheered me up. It was
entertaining. It was frightening. It depressed me. It bored me. It
interesting. It made me nervous. It disturbed me. It scared me. It
uplifting. It made me sad. It was funny. It made me feel good. It
worried me. It amused me. Each scale was labeled "not at all" at
and "very much" at 10.
Closing Soft-News Items
Ratings of the two closing news items (human interest, humor)
subjected to factor analysis. Orthogonal rotation of principal
produced five factors, accounting for 77% of the variance. Factor 1,
labeled Entertainment Value, integrated the following scales:
up," "entertaining," "interesting," "uplifting," "funny," "made me feel
and "amused me." All loadings were above |0.66|. This criterion was
reached only by one scale of Factor 2 ("made me nervous") and one
of Factor 5 ("bored me"). The highly loading scales of Factor 1 were
averaged in a composite measure (Cronbach's alpha = 0.92).
The analyses of variance performed on these measures are
summarized in Table 1. As can be seen, the humorous item received
----------------------- Insert Table 1 about here
consistently higher ratings on all scales sensitive to joyous
and amusement. The properties of these news items thus are as
for the experiment.
Various gender differences in the ratings should be mentioned. A
gender main effect (p = 0.02) was observed for Entertainment Value.
Women granted more such value to the stimuli than did men (M =
and M = 5.41, respectively). Parallel differences were recorded for
"cheered me up" (p = 0.01), "entertaining" (p = 0.02), and "uplifting"
0.003). Interestingly, no gender differences were evident for
and "amused me." On the other hand, significant interactions
news items and gender emerged for ratings sensitive to positive
reactions: "cheered me up" (p = 0.03), "uplifting" (p = 0.04), and
feel good" (p = 0.008). All interactions indicated that men
the news items more strongly than did women. More specifically,
whereas both genders rated the humorous item very highly and
so, men tended to rate the human- interest item less favorably than
The analysis of "made me nervous" (Factor 2) failed to yield
significant effects. The analysis of "bored me" (Factor 5), in
yielded a significant main effect of news items. As can be seen from
Table 1, bottom line, the humorous item proved to be less boring
human-interest story . No other effects were observed on this
Preceding Hard-News Items
Retrospective problem evaluation. The ratings of problem
how serious a problem is ___?"), pessimism ("... will get worse
apprehensions ("... will affect you personally?") were averaged across
news items and subjected to a multivariate analysis of variance with
closing news (none, human interest, humor) and respondent gender
independent variables and the four news items (Israel-Palestine
highway shootings, job market, mall crimes) as dependent variables.
main effect of closing news proved significant: Wilk's lambda = 0.79,
F(6,134) = 2.73, p = 0.016). The main effect of gender approached
significance (p = 0.06). The interaction was negligible, however (F <
Follow-up univariate analyses showed closing-news effects only
problem severity. This effect is reported in Table 2. As can be seen,
closing humorous news significantly lowered the appraisal of
severity. For this variable, both the gender main effect and the
interaction with gender were negligible (p = 0.13 and F < 1,
Although for pessimism and apprehensions all closing-news and
interaction effects were negligible, main effects of gender were
Women (M = 7.73) showed more pessimism than men (M = 7.09; p =
0.01). Women (M = 6.16) also felt more personally threatened by the
news events than did men (M = 5.56; p = 0.046).
In item-by-item evaluations, closing-news main effects, shown in
Table 2, were observed only for the Israel-Palestine conflict and mall
Insert Table 2 about here
crimes. All interactions were negligible. However, several gender
effects were obtained: severity of mall crimes (p = 0.058), pessimism
about highway shootings (p = 0.004) and mall crimes (p = 0.07), and
apprehensions about mall crimes (p < 0.001). In all cases, women
expressed greater concern than men. Regarding apprehensions about
mall crimes, for example, M = 6.18 for women and M = 4.17 for men.
Retrospective perception of affective responding. Ratings were
averaged across news items and subjected to factor analysis.
rotation of principal components produced four factors, accounting
72% of the variance. Factor 1, labeled Feeling Worried, accounted for
of the variance. Using loadings above |0.66|, it integrated the
scales: "was upsetting," "was frightening," "depressed me," "made me
nervous," "disturbed me," "scared me," "made me sad," and "worried
The averaged composite yielded Cronbach's alpha = 0.95. Factor 2
integrated the scales "cheered me up," "uplifting," and "amused me."
yielded alpha = 0.86. Factor 3 combined the scales "entertaining" and
"interesting." It yielded alpha = 0.47. Factor 4 showed "bored me" as
Analyses of variance were performed on the Factor 1-4 measures.
effects were observed for Factors 2-4. Factor 1 showed a significant
effect for gender: F(1,69) = 14.30, p < 0.001. The news items
women (M = 6.68) more than they troubled men (M = 5.03). The
effect of closing news approached significance (see Table 3). The
interaction was negligible (F < 1).
The results of the analysis of the constituent scales of Factor 1
summarized in Table 3. As can be seen, numerous main effects of
Insert Table 3 about here
closing news emerged, with highly consistent differences between
Because the news item featuring mall crimes showed the strongest
effects, the individual ratings of this item were also analyzed.
effects of closing news emerged again. They are also displayed in
No interactions were observed in these analyses. However,
redundant main effects of gender were obtained. Independent of
closing-news conditions, women thought to have been more than
upset (p = 0.01), frightened (p < 0.001), depressed (p = 0.03), nervous
0.001, disturbed (p = 0.008), scared (p < 0.001), sad (p = 0.02), and
worried (p < 0.001) in response to the newscast of all four items.
Similarly, women thought to have been more than men upset (p =
frightened (p < 0.001), nervous (p < 0.001), disturbed (p = 0.04),
< 0.001), and worried (p < 0.001) in response to the last-placed
about growing violent crime in shopping malls.
The findings support the view that humorous, amusing, soft-news
stories, used to close off a newscast containing threatening hard-
stories, are capable of ameliorating the impact of threatening news.
Newscast-closing amusing news appears to provide some degree of
affective relief to viewers, functioning in accordance with the comic-
relief model in fostering a light-hearted context for an otherwise
No evidence for similar consequences of newscast-closing
nonhumorous soft-news stories was obtained.
More specifically, Hypothesis 1 is supported for humorous
but not for soft-news generally. After the humorous closing story,
respondents consistently reported having felt less worried about
worrisome national and world events presented in the preceding
newscast. After the human-interest story, they did not. Their
apprehensions never fell significantly below those of the respondents
the control condition who had not seen a closing story.
Hypothesis 2, concerning the judgment of the severity of a social
addressed in the news, is also strongly supported for humorous
but not for soft-news generally. Exposure to an amusing closing
fostered diminished accounts of the severity of international conflict
domestic crime. Exposure to a closing human-interest story did not.
light-hearted frame of mind created by humor appears again to
belittlement of threatening issues.
It should be mentioned that, although the pattern of these effects
highly consistent across all news items, there were notable
the response to the items. The item on the job market for college
graduates, in particular, failed to show a reliable impact of the
closing story. It appears, in hindsight, that this issue was highly
to our respondents and that, as a result, they were well informed
this issue. It is conceivable that newscast-closing humor is of little
consequence for issues of great personal concern to viewers.
impact may be limited to issues that are open to judgmental
These possibilities await further examination.
Hypotheses 3 and 4, concerning pessimism about the future of a
threatening issue and apprehension about being personally affected,
failed to attract support. Closing soft-news stories were without
demonstrable effect on respondents' assessment of "things getting
and of events threatening them personally.
The fact that perception of the severity of a social problem did
translate into apprehension about being personally affected by it has
numerous explanations. First and foremost, apprehensions may be
variable interpersonally than judgments of severity, fostering higher
error variance that veils potential differences. Alternatively, youths,
such as our respondents, may feel invulnerable: They may recognize
increased danger, but not feel that it places them personally at
risk. This reasoning reverses for cases of exaggerated perceptions of
vulnerability, such as fear of not finding a good job: Persons may see
problem easing, but continue to feel not to have much of a chance.
Surely, again in hindsight, some of the news items employed in the
present investigation did not invite perceptions of being personally
threatened. The Israel-Palestine conflict may be judged a severe
problem, but hardly affects a majority of American students
Similarly, crime in big- city shopping malls can be deemed severe,
students in a university community may not feel more at risk.
the explanation for the lack of support of Hypotheses 3 and 4, of
Hypothesis 4 in particular, it would seem premature to close the
all effects of newscast- closing humorous stories on personal
apprehensions about threats and dangers featured in the news.
It would seem similarly prudent to keep an open mind about the
effects of newscast-closing human-interest material. The story used
the present investigation, although typical of human-interest
does not represent some subcategories of such material. Granted
most human-interest stories are unlikely to effect a significant shift
mood from bad to good, some might; and those that do might produce
perceptual and judgmental effects comparable to those of humor.
again, they might not, because of humor's intrinsic quality to place
into a light-hearted, belittling frame of mind. This issue also awaits
The effects of newscast-closing humorous, amusing stories on the
perception of the severity of social issues, as demonstrated in the
investigation, raises ethical questions about the practice of using soft
news in this capacity. If amusing stories, featured at the end, make
people perceive issues of great social concern in a way
with the impact intended by the news report on that issue,
evoking a light-hearted reaction, is such a practice in the public
If the function of news is to raise public concern about troubling
issues, it would seem contradictory and counterproductive to
diminish initially created concerns. The practice of using humor to
a newscast could be condemned as an effort to trivialize issues that
should be of genuine concern. On the other hand, it might be argued
newscasts bring to public attention uncounted issues, many of which
devoid of relevance to viewers, and rather arbitrarily seek to conjure
concerns, creating apprehensions in the process. If so, newscast-
humor should be welcome in that it provides affective relief from a
gloom-and-doom vision of the world that is inspired by an
prevalence of bad news.
The present investigation was designed to establish effects of the
newscast-closing practice under consideration. We gladly leave the
condemnation or justification of that practice to media ethicists.
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Properties of Closing Soft-News Items
Variable ------------------------- F(1,46) p
Human interest Humor
Entertainment Value 4.76 7.61 22.53 <0.001
Cheered me up 4.29 7.15 15.10 <0.001
Entertaining 5.92 8.24 12.08 <0.001
Interesting 5.00 7.15 7.22 0.01
Uplifting 5.08 6.58 3.35 0.07
Funny 3.46 8.88 56.45 <0.001
Made me feel good 5.12 6.76 3.51 0.07
Amused me 4.46 8.68 33.65 <0.001
Bored me 2.25 0.60 4.93 0.03
Note. Scales not identified as factors are constituent scales of Factor
Ratings range from zero to 10.
Post-Newscast Evaluation of the Severity of Featured Problems
Closing soft-news item
Variable ----------------------------- F(2,69) p
None Human interest Humor
Combined1 8.57b 8.25b 7.69a 4.08 0.02
Israel conflict 8.64 8.92 7.81 2.79 0.07
Mall crimes 7.48b 6.96ab 6.11a 4.45 0.02
1Scores were averaged across all four hard-news items: Israel-
conflict, highway shootings, job market, and crime in shopping malls.
Note. Ratings range from zero to 10. Means not showing a letter in
superscript differ at p < 0.05 by Newman-Keuls' test.
Post-Newscast Reports of Having Felt Worried During Exposure to
Closing soft-news item
Variable ----------------------------- F(2,69) p
None Human interest Humor
Factor 1: Feeling worried 6.47 6.07 5.25 2.77
Ratings across items:
Frightening 6.99b 6.98b 5.79a 3.14 0.05
Depressed me 6.02 4.73 4.38 3.06
Made me nervous 6.04b 5.93b 4.26a 4.81 0.01
Scared me 6.01 6.06 4.79 2.71 0.07
Mall crimes only:
Frightening 6.24b 6.21b 4.48a 3.82 0.03
Depressed me 4.44b 3.54ab 1.96a 3.65 0.03
Made me nervous 5.40b 5.67b 3.72a 3.34 0.04
Scared me 5.56b 5.12ab 3.44a 3.41 0.04
Worried me 6.64b 6.42b 4.46a 5.56
Note. Scales not identified as factors are constituent scales of Factor
ratings averaged across all hard-news items) or basal ratings.
range from zero to 10. Means not showing a letter in their
differ at p < 0.05 by Newman-Keuls' test.