PEJ Year in Review: CBS, PBS Differentiate Their Newscasts on Network TV

By Alex Weprin Comment

The Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual report looking back at the year in media. Among the findings: the “CBS Evening News” and the “PBS NewsHour” differentiated themselves from the other evening newscasts in significant ways, while CBS has also been slowly adding more hard news to its morning show in advance of its January format change.

The top five stories on the network evening newscasts were the economy, unrest in the Middle East, the 2012 election, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the shooting in Tucson that included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“Traditionally, the three broadcast networks have not had marked variations in their selection of news,” the PEJ writes in its report. “That appears to be changing. In 2011, one network appears to differentiating itself with a more hard news orientation.”

That network is CBS, which spent more time on the economy than either of its competitors, and less airtime on lifestyle, celebrity or sports stories than its competition.

PEJ also looked at the first 30 minutes of the network morning shows, and found that CBS was less likely to have lifestyle stories, and spent more time covering the economy and the Middle East.

Then there is the “PBS NewsHour.” The PBS newscast spent much more time covering international news, as well asĀ  government news:

The NewsHour spent a third more time covering government than the commercial network evening newscasts (12% vs. 9%), more time on the election and politics (7% vs. 5%), much less on crime (2% vs. 6%), less on disasters (4% vs. 9%), and on lifestyle (2% vs. 5%).