The characters of television news magazine shows: News sources and reporters in
Hard Copy and 60 Minutes
Maria Elizabeth Grabe
School of Journalism
Ernie Pyle Hall
Submitted for presentation in the Mass Media and Society Division at the annual
meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Chicago, July/August 1997
The characters of television news magazine shows: News sources and reporters in
Hard Copy and 60 Minutes
This content analysis examines Hard Copy and 60 Minutes in terms of news
sources and reporters. Specifically, we investigated their prominence,
demography, and dramatic potential as characters in the news drama. News
sources were also scrutinized for their institutional affiliation. A number of
scholars have focused on newspaper and television newscast sources while
ignoring news magazine programs. These inquiries consistently point at the
disproportionate representation of elite news sources. In a society that rests
on democratic ideals about the mass media's facilitation of a pluralistic public
debate, these findings provoke concern. Our analysis of 60 news magazine
segments provide some support for these concerns. Yet, it is clear that Hard
Copy featured a demographically more diverse pool of news sources than 60
Minutes. The study's findings also reveal little difference in how the two news
programs employ news sources and reporters as dramatic forces in news stories.
This study investigates and compares the roles of news sources and reporters
in 60 Minutes and Hard Copy. First, we are particularly interested in news
sources and reporters because they are arguably the main characters in the news
drama. Many practitioners and scholars see news as a drama. The inventor
of 60 Minutes, Don Hewitt, claims that 60 Minutes producers "package news as
well as Hollywood packages fiction" (Campbell, 1993). The much cited memo of
the NBC news program director, Reuven Frank, to his staff also testifies to the
practitioners' conceptualization of news as drama. He wrote that every news
"should display the attributes of fiction, of drama. It should have
structure and conflict, problem and denouncement, rising action and
falling action, a beginning, a middle and an end. These are not only the
essentials of drama; they are the essentials of narrative."(Epstein, 1974,
Likewise Carey (1975) argues that news does not describe the world, but
portrays an arena of dramatic forces and action. A number of scholars have
argued that news sources are the characters at the center of the news drama.
Schudson (1978) for example argues that "news-making begins with the sources..."
and that if journalism indeed provides the first rough draft of history, news
sources are the first drafts people. But the routinized selection of a small
group of empowered elite characters who serve as society's experts, analysts,
and commentators is the subject of scholarly concern and investigation. And
although news sources have been the focus of studies for the past 24 years, not
a single scholar has focused on their appearances in television news magazine
The second focus of this study is therefore on the comparison of two news
magazine formats in terms of the roles that news sources and reporters play news
stories. The television news magazine format, with relatively long individual
story segments, lends itself more to drama and character development than the
short and fragmented stories of newscasts. But television news magazine
programs can no longer be studied as a unified genre of news. The public debate
about distinctions between tabloid and traditional television news formats often
focus on the magazine genre. Yet very few attempts have been made to
systematically study tabloid and traditional news. Thus, by comparing the roles
of sources and reporters in tabloid and traditional news magazine programs we
attempt to gather some evidence to inform the debate about the distinction
between tabloid and traditional television news.
Specifically, with this study we investigate news sources for their prominence
in news magazine stories, their expertise, demography, dramatic potential as
story telling devices, and contributions to informing the citizens of a
democratic society. Reporters are scrutinized for their prominence in news
stories, their attempts to provoke drama, their relative objectivity in telling
news stories, and demography.
The characters of news
The body of literature on news sources reflects two somewhat contradictory
approaches. On the one hand the majority of studies focus on news sources for
their potential to reflect and legitimize society's power structure. On the
other hand scholars argue that the role of news sources is diminishing -- that
journalists are becoming the prominent characters in news stories and that the
length of sound bites from sources is shrinking.
Berkowitz (1987, p. 513) argues that sources play a large part "in shaping
information from which people unconsciously build their images of the world."
And from the results of research on this topic it is clear that in newspapers
and television news alike, Washington-based, institutional, white, male, elites
dominate as news sources shaping viewers' images of the world.
Sigal (1973, 1986) argues that efficiency dictates news gathering through
routine channels. Reporters are unable to witness newsworthy events and must
therefore position themselves so that information will flow to them (Fishman,
1980; Gans, 1979; Gitlin, 1980; Tuchman, 1978). This positioning means a strong
affiliation to government institutions. Consequently, there is an
overwhelming dependence on official government sources (Brown, Bybee, Wearden, &
Straughan, 1987; Gans, 1979; Karp, 1989; Sigal, 1973). For example, Sigal
(1973) found that 78 percent of news stories on the front pages of the
Washington Post and New York Times are local, state, national, and international
government officials. Brown, et al.(1987) found that 54.7 percent of newspaper
sources were governmental or government-affiliated officials. Similarly Gans
(1979) reports that 71 percent of news sources who appeared on CBS television
news and 72 percent of Newsweek sources are government officials. Whitney, et
al. (1989) report that 48 percent of network news sources are, or were formerly
officials of politics or government. In a similar study Berkowitz (1987) found
that 49.3 percent of local and 48.6 percent of national television news sources
were U.S. or foreign government officials.
Scholars also point out that beyond the reliance on official government sources
journalists also show preference for elite sources. With this term they
generally refer to those in powerful socioeconomic positions in society. Sigal
(1973) found that 25.8 percent of news sources were part of some enterprise.
Brown, et al. (1987) report that local newspapers focused more heavily on
enterprise channels (41 percent) than routine official channels (39 percent).
Particularly troubling is that these official and enterprise sources are used
to cite "facts" without further investigation (Ericson, Baranek, & Chan,
1989). Thus, as Soloski (1989, p. 866) argues, these news sources take the
position of society's reifiers of "fact" turning "what is essentially a product
of human creation" into perceptions of fact" (see also Koch, 1990; Whitney, et
al., 1989). This dominance of those in power to speak and be heard contradicts
the very notion of a pluralistic society in which journalists have a social
responsibility to safeguard the rights of individuals by assuming the role of a
watchdog over government and big business. And if journalists continue to
engage in a comfortable symbiotic relationship with government sources their
self-imposed role as scrutinizors of government actions is compromised.
Parenti (1986, p. 10) points out that this compromised relationship between
journalists and their government sources "continually recreate a view of reality
supportive of existing social and economic class power." Gans (1979) refers to
this relationship as a conspiratorial dance against the public where sources
mostly do the leading.
Interestingly though, a number of scholars don't view journalists' reliance on
government officials as willful or consciously biased actions. Epstein (1974),
Gandy (1982), and Gans (1997) argue that journalists are merely striving to meet
deadlines and thereby rely on those news sources who are available for comments.
Sigal (1986) points out that the time and financial constraints on news
organizations make them vulnerable to government agencies that not only provide
journalists with press releases ready for transcription but they also schedule
press conferences with mindful consideration of deadlines.
The ordinary citizens of society take a much different position in terms of
prominence and prevalence in the news. Whitney, et al. (1989) reports that only
25.7 percent of news sources in network news are private individuals.
Similarly, Gans (1979) found that only one fifth of news sources in CBS news and
Newsweek were ordinary people. They were most likely to be rioters, strikers,
or victims of some sort. Gans (1979, p. 15) remarks that "most ordinary people
never come into the news, except as statistics. How ordinary people work, what
they do outside working hours, in their families, churches, clubs, and other
organizations, and how they relate to government and public agencies hardly ever
make the news." According to Hallin (1992a) the average duration of a sound
bite of the "average citizen" is four seconds, whereas the average for elite
sources is nine seconds.
Very few studies on news sources have addressed other demographic variables.
Yet, Brown, et al. (1987) reports that only 10 percent of news sources on the
front pages of the Washington Post and New York Times were women. Hansen, et
al. (1994) report that there are six times more male than female
authorities/officials in their study of national newspapers. But when it comes
to eyewitnesses, the frequencies of male and female sources are less
disproportionate. Forty-two percent were women compared to 58 percent who were
A number of scholars have focused more specifically on the gender of people in
the news (Greenwald, 1990; Holland, 1987; Kilgard & Craft, 1995; Potter, 1985;
Sanders, 1992). These studies consistently reveal that women are
underrepresented as newsmakers. One study (Kilgard & Craft, 1995) reveals not
only that women are underrepresented but that they are most likely to be
presented as victims of violence. Another noteworthy finding is that female
reporters did not seek out female sources any more than their male colleagues
A number of studies also reveal that the overwhelming majority of news sources
are Caucasian and when African Americans are featured as news sources they are
most likely to be criminals (Entman, 1992; Gomes & Williams, 1990; Graber, 1984;
Graber, 1979; Graber, 1980; Kerner, 1969; Kilgard & Craft, 1995; Sheley &
Ashkins, 1981). These patterned presentations of women as victims and African
Americans as criminals hardly promote these demographic groups as credible news
sources who are able to provide expertise and insights on political, economic,
and social issues.
Some scholars argue that the role that journalists play in news is lessening
the role of news sources. Today's television news is much more "mediated" than
the news of the sixties and early seventies. During the early years the
reporter's role was more passive than it is now. In recent times top television
correspondents gained enormous prestige and often considerable freedom to
interpret or to comment on the news. This is due in part to the weakening of
political consensus and authority during the years of Vietnam and Watergate that
pushed journalism in the direction of active reporting. The adversarial
relations between candidates and journalists resulted in more investigative and
interpretive narratives. As Patterson (1993) noted, after the McGovern-Fraser
Commission introduced reform to the nominating process in 1970, the press was no
longer asked only to be a watchdog of the government or to be a provider of
timely information. Journalists were also expected to "guide the voters"
decisions. It was "obliged to inspect the candidates' platforms, judge their
fitness for the nation's highest office, and determine their electability"
(Patterson, 1993, p. 35).
This newly found power in terms of covering presidential elections spilled over
in reporting of other issues. Journalists today often treat information from
sources as raw materials to be taken apart rather than simply being reproduced
and transmitted. Hallin (1992) argues that the old forms of reporting no longer
seem adequate. Today official sources are not taken as authorities and
journalists feel that adequate reporting called for them to provide their own
synthesis and interpretation (Hallin, 1992).
It is not surprising then that Smith (1989) and Hallin (1992b) found that the
length of sound bites from political candidates have shrunk dramatically from
the 1968 (43.1 and 31.5 seconds for the respective studies) to 1988 (8.9 and
10.3 seconds for the respective studies) elections. The length of newscasts
remained constant, yet viewers see and hear less of candidates and more of
reporters as political analysts. A more recent study by Barnhurst and Steele
(1997) similarly indicates that in presidential election coverage, political
correspondents have increased their on-air time from 1968 to 1992 at the cost of
soundbites from political candidates. Yet, in a content analysis of the 1992
election campaign coverage Lowry and Shidler (1995) determined that soundbites
form political candidates have stabilized at an average of 9.4 seconds.
Sigal (1973) suggests that with the introduction of computer technology
reporters can dial their databases to proof check news sources, making them less
reliant on official sources as the only conduit of "facts". Moreover, in an
experimental study, Weintrub and Dong (1995) found that news believability was
based more on message content than on source reputation.
The demographic make-up of reporters doesn't differ too much from that of news
sources. In a survey of U.S. journalists Weaver and Wilhoit (1993) found that
in 1992, 24.8 percent of television journalists, 33.9 percent of daily newspaper
journalists, 44.1 percent of weekly newspaper journalist, and 45.9 percent of
print news magazine journalists were women. Only 3.7 percent of journalists
were African American, 2.2 percent were Hispanic, 1 percent was Asian, and 0.6
percent was Native American. To no surprise Mendosa (1996) indicate that the
majority of television news reporters who appear in the news are white. In
television (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, PBS) coverage of the 1996 conventions 88 percent
of correspondents were white, 8 percent African American, 2.67 percent Hispanic,
and 1.33 percent Asian American.
Tabloid and traditional news magazine formats
Despite our argument that news magazine programs offer the most comprehensive
news format for showcasing expertise, power, and the demography of news sources
and reporters, the body of research on this topic excludes studies of news
magazine programs. Considering the prevalence and prominenceof news
magazine programs as part of nightly television menus it is particularly
surprising that this news genre has been ignored in scholarly investigations of
news sources and reporters. It is evident from the review of literature that
the focus is almost exclusively on newspapers or local and national newscasts.
This study therefore contributes not only as the first to investigate the role
of news sources and reporters in news magazine programs, but it will also draw
comparisons between tabloid and traditional presentations of them.
In recent times the tabloid versus traditional news distinction has become
controversial. Some argue that this distinction is an artificial one and that
the line that separates these news formats is fading (Bird, 1990; Bird, 1992;
Bird & Dardenne, 1988; Erlich, 1996; Knight, 1989). Others feel compelled to
publicly redraw the line that separates tabloid from traditional news
(Bernstein, 1992; Briller, 1993; Chira, 1994; Cremedas & Chew, 1994; Kurtz,
1993; Reibstein, 1994; Rosenberg, 1989; Ruel, 1994; Walters, 1988; Weiss, 1989).
Most recently, CBS executives decided to scrap an interview with Bill Cosby
about his extramarital affair that would have aired on 60 Minutes. After Hard
Copy featured Cosby's admission to having an affair 20 years ago, the producers
of 60 Minutes expressed concern that they would be accused of stooping to
tabloid tactics. They stated that the program "is too important a franchise to
get caught up in that kind of circus" (Levin, 1997). The distinction between
television news magazine formats also became a major point of controversy within
television industry circles when television executives were confronted with the
question: What is a news program? In order to create a new television rating
system to alert parents about the content of television shows, television
executives decided to reserve the news label for "traditional news programs" and
thereby redrew the line between tabloid and traditional news.
In academic circles a few scholars have attempted to argue the similarities and
distinctions between tabloid and traditional news. These publications have
indicated some differences between the two formats in terms of their
institutional affiliations, stylistic approaches, content, journalistic goals,
and their audiences.
Dewerth-Pallmeyer and Hirsch (1994) describe television tabloid news magazines
as nightly half-hour syndicated programs whereas traditional news magazine
programs are hourly weekly network produced programs. The style is sensational,
at times skeptical, and often motivated by moral concerns within a populist tone
of address (Bessie, 1938; Bird, 1990; Bird, 1992; Bird & Dardenne, 1988; Fiske,
1992; Knight, 1989). Fiske (1992) argues that the tabloid news style dissolves
the separation between fiction, documentary, news, and entertainment. He also
describes the subject matter of tabloid as that which lies at the intersection
between public and private lives (Fiske, 1992). Crime, scandal, and other
deviant behavior is a staple ingredient of tabloid news (Bessie, 1938; Bird,
1990,1992; Bird & Dardenne, 1988; Knight, 1989).
But most argue that tabloid is most clearly distinguished from traditional news
by its violation of presumed journalistic objectivity and its failure to
"accurately" and "responsibly" inform the public. As a result tabloid news has
become known as infotainment. Curiously, journalists from both camps claim
"authenticity" through the application of different styles, exemplifying
objectivity in the case of highbrow news and subjectivity in the case of tabloid
news (Campbell, 1993; Farhi, 1996; Knight, 1989). Some argue that highbrow news
reporters distance themselves in an attempt to claim objectivity and
authenticity. On the other hand, tabloid news follows a recipe of involvement
or subjectivity to produce authenticity and credibility. Tabloid reporters
become part of the human interest drama to draw the viewer into the news
stories. Identification, empathy, or involvement are often the result.
According to Knight (1989, p. 106) tabloid news " ... acts as a mirror, not in
the conventional sense as an attempt at reflection of reality, but as an
instrument through which the viewer is encouraged to recognize him/herself in
meaningful ways." They argue that tabloid television news journalists claim a
subjective approach to reporting, whereas highbrow news reporters claim a more
objective approach to their work. At the same time both news genres lay claim
to credible news reporting.
There is remarkably little information available about the tabloid audience.
However, because of the supposed blue-collar values evident in the content of
supermarket tabloid newspapers, Bird (1990) argues that their readers may indeed
resemble the people in their content. Tabloid stories emphasize the politically
powerful and the upper-class' corruption, self-interest, and greed, while
simultaneously promoting traditional religious, blue-collar values (Bird, 1992;
Knight, 1989). Bird (1992) also argues that tabloid newspaper content has
always provided hope for working-class readers with its heavy doses of "rags to
riches" stories, while simultaneously offering consolation in its emphasis on
"money can't buy happiness" narratives. Grabe (1996) found support for this
idea that tabloid and traditional news magazine programs cater for different
audiences and thereby reaffirming social class distinctions. By focusing on
crime stories she found that traditional news magazine stories communicated to
their mostly middle to upper-middle class audience that working-class people
are the criminals they should fear and that tabloid shows promoted the notion
that upper-class people are the criminals who are to be distrusted to their
mostly working class audience. Knight (1989) supports these insights and argues
that tabloid television is in the same ways meaningful to the lives of ordinary
The argument that tabloid news have more use and relevance to the lives of
working class people, while highbrow news caters to the upper-middle to
upper-class audience (Bird & Dardenne, 1988 and Bird, 1990, 1992) makes this
study's focus on the demography of news sources relevant to further
investigation. After all, if tabloid news caters to a primarily working-class
audience, more ordinary people should appear in Hard Copy than in 60 Minutes
which caters to a upper-middle class audience.
The three major research questions for this study are:
1. How prominent and prevalent are news sources and reporters in tabloid and
traditional news magazine programs?
2. Who are the news sources and reporters of tabloid and traditional news
magazine programs in terms of their institutional affiliations and demography?
3. What is the dramatic potential of news source and reporters in tabloid and
traditional news magazine programs? We conceive the dramatic potential of
sources as their general emotional state in news stories. The reporter's
dramatic potential is evaluated in terms of his/her involvement in the story,
relative objectivity, obtrusiveness of voice, role in provoking emotion by
asking emotional questions, and interruption of news sources during the
This content analysis comprises ten weeks of Hard Copy and 60 Minutes programs.
Five hundred and seventy hours and eight seconds of television content
(excluding advertisements, logos, promotions and anchor chatter) were analyzed.
We focused exclusively on the individual segments because, unlike anchor
chatter, they provide the essence of the news drama and the characters
interwoven in this narrative.
Weekly 60 Minutes programs were randomly sampled over a six month period (July
1, 1996 to December 31, 1996). The same weeks were used for sampling Hard Copy
programs. Yet, because the program is broadcast five days a week on a local
(Indianapolis) station one Hard Copy program per week was drawn randomly for
Two units of analyses were used. Reporters and news sources were coded
individually. Coding sheets contained both categorical and three-point scaled
items. Reporters were investigated for their prominence in the news segments.
Their appearance on camera (i.e., stand-up presentations to camera, cut away
reaction shots to interviewee bites, and reverse questions to interviewees) were
coded in terms of duration and number of incidents. The reporter's role in
creating drama was coded using six items. This includes the number of times
that the reporter (1) asked questions to provoke emotion rather than gain
information about the news topic; (2) interrupted the news source with a
question; and three scaled items evaluating (3) the relative objectivity of the
reporter; (4) the level of the reporter's emotional involvement in the story;
and (5) the relative obtrusiveness of the reporter's voice. The reporter was
also scrutinized for demography. Gender, race, and age were coded.
News sources were analyzed in terms of their general presentation, their role
and contribution to the news story, demography, and emotional state. The
general presentation of the news source involved the frequency and duration of
their appearance, whether they were introduced with voice-over and visual
material, the frequency and duration of their appearances off camera (i.e. where
one hears their voices but don't see them on the screen), and the frequency with
which they were cited in voice overs. The role and contribution of the news
source were coded in terms of their occupation and social status and the
position from which they provided information about the news story. The
demographic analysis of news sources included their gender, educational level,
race, age and social class. The emotional state of news sources were evaluated
using three semantic differential items. The first item measured relative
happiness or sadness. A high "happiness" rating means that the news source
expressed joy and was laughing during an interview, whereas a high "sadness"
rating indicates that the news source expressed sorrow and revealed physical
signs of crying such as tears or a quivering eye, lip, or voice. The second
item measured how upset or calm the news source was. An upset news source shows
physical (e.g. raised voice) and verbal signs of anger and hostility. A calm
source appeared relaxed and visibly calm while providing emotional testimony.
The third item involved coder ratings of the relative apathetic versus spirited
emotional state of the news source. A high "apathetic" rating of a news source
means that the news source revealed distance, coldness, and disinterest in the
topic whereas a high "spirited" rating of the news source indicate a clearly
zealous and enthusiastic participation in the news story. In all three scaled
items a "neutral" middle point of the scale represented ratings that reflect the
absence of any of the extreme emotional conditions.
Two coders participated in the coding process. They are two of the authors of
this study. Both have graduate degrees in mass communication and both worked as
broadcast journalists. Their practical understanding of broadcast journalism
arguably contributed to more informed coding decisions.
After a coding manual was developed three coder training sessions were held.
These sessions enabled us to refine and revise the categories of this study.
One important revision of the coding instrument was changing scaled items from a
five-point scale to a three-point scale. This improved the reliability of
scaled items considerably. A pre-test during the last coder training session
resulted in overall coder agreement of 88 percent. Material from recorded
programs that were not included in this study were used during these sessions
and for the pre-test. The coding for this study was completed over a ten week
period. The overall reliability for this study is 97 percent. Critical
categorical items, which involved qualitative judgment yielded agreement of 89
percent, while the reliability for scaled items was 81 percent.
Analysis of Hard Copy segments produced 60 segments and a total duration of
157.66 minutes. The mean duration of Hard Copy segments was 2.63 minutes. The
39 60 Minutes segments had a total duration of 407.05 minutes and a mean
duration of 10.44 minutes per segment.
Prominence of news sources and reporters.
From Table 1 it is clear that 86.80 percent of news sources appeared on camera
and 47.90 percent were presented in voice during their on-camera appearances.
These in voice appearances are typically the result of video cuts to visual
material while news sources speak. Also noteworthy is the fact that 75.30
percent of news sources were introduced with voice-over and video material prior
to their soundbites and that 30.50 percent of news sources were cited in the
reporter's voice-over. Hard Copy and 60 Minutes featured news sources on camera
with the same regularity. Yet, 60 Minutes was clearly more likely to cite news
sources (37.50 percent) and introduce them (88.75 percent) than Hard Copy (19.19
and 53.54 percent respectively).
60 Minutes (97.43 percent) was far more likely than Hard Copy (36.67 percent)
to feature reporters on camera. This finding is also evident from the relative
scarcity of Hard Copy reporters compared to 60 Minutes reporters in stand-up
presentations, on-camera questioning of sources, and reaction shots to sources
(see Table 2).
When one examines the number of times and duration of on-camera appearances of
news sources and reporters the same pattern emerges. 60 Minutes features news
sources significantly more often and for a significantly longer time than Hard
Copy (see Table 2). 60 Minutes reporters thus play a far more prominent role in
the news drama than Hard Copy reporters. They appear more often and for longer
periods of time in stand-up reporting and ask significantly more questions on
camera than their Hard Copy counterparts. This prominent role of reporters in
60 Minutes is in line with Campbell's (1993) argument that 60 Minutes reporters
serve as mediators of conflict and drama. At the same time Hard Copy reporters
are remarkably absent in visual appearance and sources are the most prominent
characters of theses news stories.
Institutional affiliation and contribution
The institutional affiliation of sources was defined in most stories (83
percent for Hard Copy and 86 percent for 60 Minutes). In line with previous
studies that focused on sources in newspapers and television newscasts, we found
that government sources are routinely used in news magazines (15.83 percent).
Yet, only 1 percent of Hard Copy sources are government officials, compared to
one-fourth of the sources in 60 Minutes (see Table 3).
Six percent of sources in Hard Copy were business professionals and 33.33
percent were non-business professionals (doctors, teachers, lawyers, etc.). In
comparison 9.38 percent of 60 Minutes sources were business people and 27.8
percent 24.38 percent were non-business professionals. Journalists were sources
in 12.7 percent of the programs and appeared twice as often in Hard Copy (18.18
percent) than 60 Minutes (9.38 percent). More academic sources were used in 60
Minutes (9.38 percent) than in Hard Copy (1 percent) and celebrities appeared
more of then on Hard Copy (11.11 percent) than 60 Minutes (2.5 percent).
If one groups government officials, business professionals, non-business
professionals, academics, and celebrities together as elite sources it becomes
clear than the programs under investigation relied heavily on elites (63.32
percent). Yet, 60 Minutes used more elite sources (70.62 percent) than Hard
Copy (51.51 percent).
Special interest groups were given a voice almost one-tenth of the time (9.7
percent), but interestingly there are more sources presenting special interest
groups in 60 Minutes (13.75 percent) than in Hard Copy (3.03 percent). This is
a troubling finding when one considers Ericson, Baranek, and Chan's (1989)
finding that sources are routinely used to cite "facts" without further
investigation. It should be noted, however, that their study examined
newspapers, not television newscasts.
When it comes to working class people, Hard Copy was more likely than 60
Minutes to use them as news sources. Industrial workers account for 15 percent
and service workers 10.10 percent of the sources in Hard Copy. But a mere 1.87
percent of sources in 60 Minutes were industrial workers and 1.26 percent were
service workers. Housewives (5.85 percent) and students (3.9 percent) were
seldom used as sources in the programs and were roughly evenly distributed
between the two shows (see Table 3).
Sources contributed on different levels to news stories by fulfilling different
character roles in the news drama. For example, 44 percent of news sources had
either personal experience or were witnesses to the topic, 9.3 percent either
reported hearsay or gossip about the topic, 17.4 percent were experts on the
topic, 12.4 percent expressed their non-expert opinions on the issue, 6.6 spoke
as a potentate, 2.7 percent were victims of some sort of injustice, 3.1 percent
were the subjects of a profile story, 3.9 percent were accused or sentenced for
committing some sort of injustice (see Table 4). There are also noteworthy
differences and similarities between Hard Copy and 60 Minutes in terms of
presenting characters in these different roles. The two shows don't seem to
differ much in the frequency with which they present sources who have personal
experience of or witnessed the topic (see Table 4). They also featured news
sources as victims of injustice or expressing personal non-expert opinions about
the topic with roughly the same regularity. Interestingly though, Hard Copy
reporters, noticeably more often than their 60 Minutes colleagues, had to rely
on either gossip or hearsay (15.15 percent) or drew credibility for their
stories by using experts (26.26 percent). By contrast 60 Minutes producers
seldomly used sources who relayed gossip or hearsay (5.63 percent), and
downplayed the use of experts (11.88 percent) to a surprising extent. It
appears that 60 Minutes producers had more access than Hard Copy reporters to
original sources and featured the accused (5.63 percent versus 1.01 percent of
Hard Copy sources) or the very subject of the profile story (4.38 percent versus
1.01 percent of Hard Copy sources) in their reports. Moreover, the 60 Minutes
route to source credibility seems to run not only through experts (11.88
percent) but also through potentates (10 percent versus 1.01 percent of Hard
Demography of news sources and reporters.
In line with findings of studies on the gender of newspaper and television
newscast sources, our study reveals that male sources (70.66 percent) dominated.
A closer look at gender differences between Hard Copy and 60 Minutes sources
makes it clear that Hard Copy (37.37 percent) featured more female news sources
than 60 Minutes (24.37 percent).
This study's findings also support the idea that Caucasians dominate as
sources. In fact, 88.4 percent of all news sources were Caucasian, 8.5 percent
were African American, 0.8 percent were Asian, and not a single Latino news
source was featured in the programs under investigation. 60 Minutes (11.88
percent were African American) provided a more racially diverse source pool than
Hard Copy (3.03 percent were African American).
More than half (68.34 percent) of all news sources were older than 30.
Interestingly though, 60 Minutes (61.25 percent) favored news sources that are
older than 45, while Hard Copy (65.66 percent) was most likely to feature news
sources between the age of 20 and 45.
The educational level of news sources is not always clear from news stories.
Approximately 61 percent of all news sources were coded as unknown. Yet, it is
noteworthy that 60 Minutes was most likely to feature news sources with graduate
degrees (30 percent versus Hard Copy's 11.11 percent), while Hard Copy (12.11
percent) featured almost twice as many sources than 60 Minutes (6.26 percent)
who had a high school education or less. Similarly, Hard Copy featured working
class people (26.26 percent) far more regularly than 60 Minutes (4.38 percent).
In addition, 60 Minutes (66.88 percent) relied far more heavily on upper and
middle class sources than Hard Copy (32.32 percent). It must be noted though
that like with coding the educational level of sources, coders were relatively
conservative in categorizing the social class of sources. In fact, in 33.2
percent of all cases the social class of news sources were undetermined.
The demography of journalists reveal that white (84.80 percent), men (62.60
percent), between the age of 31 and 60 (91.90 percent) are most likely to report
on the two news magazine programs under investigation.
Differences and similarities between the demography of Hard Copy and 60 Minutes
reporters are evident. In terms of the race of reporters, the two shows
presented Caucasians and African Americans with roughly the same regularity (see
Table 5). Moreover, the two news programs show the same absence of Latino and
Asian reporters (see Table 5). Hard Copy has noticeably less disparity than 60
Minutes between the gender representation of reporters. On Hard Copy 48.33
percent of reporters were male. On the other hand 60 Minutes featured more than
five times more male than female reporters. Also noteworthy is that the
reporters on Hard Copy were most likely (90 percent) to be adults between 21 and
45, whereas all the 60 Minutes reporters were older than 45 (see Table 5).
Dramatic potential of news sources and reporters
Our third research question concerns the dramatic potential of news sources and
reporters in tabloid and traditional news magazine programs. The emotional state
of sources in news stories are important in creating drama while reporters have
the means to bring life to these stories in their interaction with news sources
and their personal involvement.
Data accessing the emotional state of sources (see Table 6) were submitted to
t-tests. Results show that sources in 60 Minutes tended to be more upset than
those who appeared in Hard Copy (F=19.57, p<.0001). As explained in the methods
session, an upset rating indicated that the news source showed physical and
verbal signs of anger and hostility. In other words, sources in 60 Minutes
tended to be more upset and thus had more dramatic potential than those in Hard
Copy. But results for the two other dimensions of emotional state were
non-significant (F=1.25, p=.265 for the happy to sad scale and F=2.64, p=.11 for
the apathetic and spirited scale). However, it appears that sources in both
shows tended to exhibit physical signs of sorrow rather than happiness (M=1.91
for Hard Copy and M= 1.97 for 60 Minutes) and were spirited rather than
apathetic (M=2.36 for Hard Copy and M= 2.31 for 60 Minutes).
There were no significant differences between Hard Copy and 60 Minutes
reporters in terms of their emotional involvement, objectivity and voice
inflection (see Table 6). Results for these three categories meant that
tabloid and traditional magazine reporters appeared similar in terms of their
relative "objectivity" to the coders. The means (M=2.57 for Hard Copy and
M=2.44 for 60 Minutes on a 3-point scale) indicate that reporters in both shows
appeared quite involved to the coders. In addition, reporters in Hard Copy did
not present their stories in a more obtrusive voice tone than their counterparts
in 60 Minutes, although the mean score for Hard Copy on this scale (M=2.63) was
leaning more to obtrusiveness than was the case for 60 Minutes (M=1.67).
Yet, data for other dramatic means of reporting showed some noteworthy
discrepancies. Reporters in 60 Minutes were more likely to ask questions that
provoke emotion (F=7.88, p<.01). When Hard Copy reporters asked questions only
12.5 percent of the times did they try to provoke emotional responses from the
news sources. Reporters on 60 Minutes, on the other hand, were more prone (76.0
percent of the time) to ask emotionally charged questions.
Similarly, reporters in 60 Minutes are more likely to interrupt news sources
(75.6 percent) while their counterparts in Hard Copy were far less aggressive (5
percent) on camera. While this might be the result of editing (not showing
on-camera confrontations), reporters in 60 Minutes did seem to favor
interruption and confrontation more often than Hard Copy reporters.
From the body of literature on news sources, concern for the dominance of
government officials as spokespeople in newspapers and television newscasts is
apparent. These scholars are troubled by the idea that in a supposedly
pluralistic society, government officials are given a disproportional large
chunk (between 48 and 78 percent) of newspaper and television news citations and
sound bites. Yet, our study does not provide support for these concerns.
Overall only 15.83 percent of news sources on television news magazine programs
had government affiliations. It is noteworthy though that 60 Minutes showed
greater favoritism than Hard Copy to government officials.
If one can draw conclusions about the values underlying news program content
from analyzing who appears as the major characters in the news drama, 60 Minutes
serves the elite. By contrast Hard Copy gives voice to more common people. If
we trust the Simmons Market Bureau's descriptions of tabloid and traditional
news magazine audiences it is clear that the social class (education, income,
occupation) of 60 Minutes viewers is typically upper-middle and upper-class
people. Hard Copy attracts viewers from the lower-middle and working class.
And it appears as if the news sources on these two shows are demographically
similar to their audiences. Bird (1992) suggests with regard to tabloid
newspapers, that these publications offer hope and meaning to the lives of
ordinary people. We found support for this notion that the two news magazine
shows cater to different audiences, thereby reaffirming social class
distinctions. After all the mostly upper-middle class audience of 60
Minutes saw mostly elite sources (70.62 percent) and were less than two percent
of the time reminded of the of views working class people. Hard Copy featured
quite a different segment of society. While still relying on elites (54.54
percent) to express opinions and convey information, 15.15 percent of news
sources were from the working class. Within the elite category, Hard Copy
virtually ignored government sources (1 percent) and academics (1 percent) and
focused on professionals outside the business world as experts. Also important
here is that Hard Copy was more likely than 60 Minutes to presented the views of
people on the periphery of socioeconomic power by using more women, young
people, and those without graduate degrees as news sources.
Our study cannot support the common accusations that tabloid news favors a
subjective, dramatic, and sensationalist approach to news reporting. In fact,
there is evidence that through the use of news sources and reporting styles 60
Minutes reporters are more likely to provoke drama and emotion and feature the
resulting sound bites with more frequency than Hard Copy. Beside the important
findings about the demographic differences between Hard Copy and 60 Minutes news
sources, this attempt to systematically unravel the substantive differences
between these types of news shows offer findings that suggest the assumed line
that separates them cannot be drawn in terms of reporting styles or the use of
emotion-provoking sound bites. The next task is to investigate other components
of the news story in search of the illusive answer that will reveal the
difference between tabloid and traditional news. At this point we suggest that
an in-depth look at the use of structural features (camera, editing techniques,
and digital effects) might produce results that will justify the accusations
that tabloid news has a sensational appeal.
Table 1. Appearances of news source and reporter appearances in Hard Copy and
Hard Copy 60 Minutes Total
Variable Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
On camera appearance 98 98.99 158 98.75 258 86.80
Appearance in voice 55 55.56 69 43.13 124 47.90
Introduced 53 53.54 142 88.75 195 75.30
Cited 19 19.19 60 37.50 79 30.50
On camera appearance 22 36.67 38 97.43 60 60.60
Stand-up 22 36.67 28 71.79 50 50.50
Ask questions 9 15.00 32 82.05 41 41.40
Reaction shots 3 5.00 28 71.79 31 31.30
Interrupt news source
Table 2. The duration of news source and reporter appearances in Hard Copy and
Hard Copy 60 Minutes Total
Variable Number Mean Number Mean Number Mean
On camera appearance
Individual appearances 274.00 2.80 761.00 4.80* 1035.00 4.00
Duration 30.38 0.31 127.40 0.81* 150.67 0.61
Appearance in voice
Individual appearances 100.00 1.80 134.00 1.93 234.00 0.90
Duration 6.02 0.11 10.90 0.16*** 16.92 0.07
Individual citations 32.00 1.58 113.00 1.88 145.00 0.56
Individual appearances 22.00 1.41 28.00 2.57* 50.00 2.06
Duration 6.17 0.28 21.45 0.77* 27.62 0.55
Individual questions 22.00 2.44 475.00 14.84** 497.00 12.12
Duration 2.05 0.23 32.90 1.03 34.95 0.85
Individual shots 5.00 1.67 328.00 11.71 333.00 10.74
Duration 0.18 0.06 9.68 0.35 9.87 0.32
Duration presented in minutes.
** p< 0.01
*** p< 0.03
Table 3. Institutional affiliation of news sources.
Hard Copy 60 Minutes Total
Variable Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Government 1 1.00 40 25.00 41 15.83
Elite 51 51.51 113 70.62 164 63.32
Professionals 6 6.06 15 9.38 21 8.19
Professionals 33 33.33 39 24.38 72 27.80
Academics 1 1.00 15 9.38 16 6.20
Celebrities 11 11.11 4 2.50 15 5.80
Journalists 18 18.18 15 9.38 33 12.74
Interest Groups 3 3.03 22 13.75 25 9.70
Working class 15 15.15 3 1.88 18 6.95
workers 5 5.05 1 0.63 6 2.30
Service Workers 10 10.10 2 1.25 12 4.60
Housewives 6 6.06 9 5.62 15 5.80
Students 3 3.03 7 4.38 10 3.90
Undetermined 15 16.16 20 13.12 35 13.50
The above categories are not mutually exclusive
Table 4. Contributions of news sources to the news drama.
__ Hard Copy 60 Minutes Total
Variable Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
First hand experience
or witness 40 40.40 74 46.25 113 44.00
Hearsay or gossip 15 15.15 9 5.63 24 9.30
Expert 26 26.26 19 11.88 45 17.40
Opinion 10 10.10 22 13.75 32 12.40
Potentate 1 1.01 16 10.00 17 6.60
Victim 3 3.03 4 4.04 7 2.70
Accused 1 1.01 9 5.63 10 3.90
Profile 1 1.01 7 4.38 8 3.10
Undetermined 2 2.02 0 0.00 2 0.80
Table 5. Demography of news sources and reporters on Hard Copy and 60 Minutes.
Hard Copy 60 Minutes Total
Variable Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Male 62 62.63 121 75.63 183 70.70
Female 37 37.37 39 24.37 76 29.30
Caucasian 91 91.92 138 86.25 229 88.40
African American 3 3.03 19 11.88 22 8.50
Latino 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00
Asian 0 0.00 2 1.25 2 0.80
Undetermined 5 5.05 1 0.63 6 2.30
20 and younger 3 3.03 6 3.75 9 3.50
21-30 26 26.26 10 6.25 36 13.90
31-45 39 39.39 45 28.13 84 32.40
46-60 20 20.20 73 45.63 93 35.90
Over 60 5 5.05 25 15.63 30 11.60
Undetermined 6 6.06 1 0.63 7 2.70
Upper 4 4.04 45 28.93 49 18.90
Middle 28 28.28 62 38.75 90 34.70
Working 26 26.26 7 4.37 33 12.70
At poverty level 0 0.00 1 0.63 1 0.40
Undetermined 41 41.41 45 28.13 86 33.20
Ph.D 4 4.04 20 12.50 24 9.30
Other graduate degree 7 7.07 28 17.50 35 13.50
BA 2 2.02 18 11.15 20 7.70
High school 11 11.11 5 3.13 16 6.20
Less than high school 1 1.00 5 3.13 6 2.30
Undetermined 74 74.75 84 51.90 158 61.00
Male 29 48.33 33 84.61 62 62.60
Female 31 51.67 6 15.38 37 37.40
Caucasian 51 85.00 33 84.61 84 84.80
African American 6 10.00 6 15.38 12 12.10
Latino 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00
Asian 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00
Undetermined 3 5.00 0 0.00 3 3.00
21-30 5 8.33 0 0.00 5 5.10
31-45 49 81.67 0 0.00 49 49.5
46-60 3 5.00 19 48.72 22 22.20
Over 60 0 0.00 20 51.28 20 20.20
Undetermined 3 5.00 0 0.00 3 3.00
Table 6. Dramatic potential of news sources and reporters.
Variable Hard Copy 60 Minutes Total F p
Mean Mean Mean
Happy-Sad 1,91 1.97 1.94 1.25 .265
Upset-Calm 1.85* 1.74* 1.79 19.58 .000
Apathetic-Spirited 2.36 2.31 2.34 2.64 .106
Involvement 2.57 2.44 2.51 .28 .598
Objectivity 1.73 1.89 1.81 .26 .615
Inflection 2.63 1.67 2.15 1.42 .236
Table 7. Dramatic potential of reporters
Hard Copy 60 Minutes Total
Variable Frequency % Frequency % Frequency %
Provoke emotion 3 12.5 21* 76.0 60 60.1
Interrupt source 1 5 59* 75.6 60 60.1
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(1995) for survey findings on the gender and race composition of broadcast
Three tabloid shows are broadcast every weeknight (Monday to Friday). They are
Inside Edition, American Journal and Hard Copy. With the exception of Monday
and Saturday nights viewers see at least one of the six traditional news
magazine programs (Dateline, 60 Minutes, Primetime Live, Turning Point, 48 Hours
and 20/20) per night. Two traditional news magazine shows air on Sunday,
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings.
 All traditional news magazine programs are broadcast during prime time on
the networks. Tabloid news magazine programs are syndicated but often either
precede early evening local newscasts or follow national network newscasts.
 Grabe (1997) reports that examinations of the Simmons Market Research
Bureau's studies of media and markets reveal that working-class people comprise
the major portion of the tabloid television audience while middle and
upper-middle class people predominate the traditional news magazine audience.
 Separate categories included occupational roles such as senator, member of
the house of representatives, government official, political candidate, member
of law enforcement or the military, corporate executive, working for large
corporation, independent small businessperson, representing an interest group,
academic, non-corporate/business professional, service worker, industrial
worker, housewife, student, celebrity, journalist, social/labor position
 This category included the following options: first hand personal
experience of topic, witness to topic, hearsay about topic, heard gossip about
the topic, expert on topic, potentate, victim, accused, criminal, provide
personal opinion, subject of a profile story, unknown, other.
See also Grabe (1996) for findings that, through the demography of criminals and
victims, tabloid and traditional news magazine programs reaffirm social class