Title

Backpack Journalism in Television Newsgathering: Audience Perceptions of Quality

Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication and Information

Major Professor

Norman R. Swan

Committee Members

Catherine Luther, Robert Legg, Edward Counts

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore preferences by younger news audiences of backpack journalism in local television news. Local television news has to compete with Internet and other media to attract viewers. The theoretical foundation for this study, uses and gratifications, proposes audience members will actively seek news information using television as a primary source.

The focus of the study centered around technology’s influence on television newsgathering techniques and if the techniques delineated the quality of journalistic presentation. Four hundred and ninety three college students were surveyed about their media use, news gratification, and preferences of production quality criteria associated with news stories produced by traditional two person crews and backpack journalists. Respondents were shown eight randomly selected videotaped news stories from a television market that employed both traditional two person news crews and backpack journalists. Four stories were chosen by each newsgathering method. Each news story was judged on perceptions of pacing, camera composition, lighting, voice narration, interviews selected, and script production.

Findings suggested that younger audience members indicated a preference toward newsgathering methods by traditional news crews rather than backpack journalists. Anecdotal evidence suggests a shift in the newsgathering paradigm is currently taking place in the local television news. However, the results of this study propose the audience acceptance of this newsgathering technique is slow to be accepted by the younger news audience.

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