Iowa Alumni Magazine | October 2006 | Features

Breaking News: More on the Topic

By Jennifer Hemmingsen
Mixed Media photo: Adpro Design

How Well Informed Are You?

Just because you keep CNN on in the background all day doesn't necessarily mean you're getting a good picture of what's happening in the world, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a non-partisan group that analyzes news coverage, conducts public opinion polls, and does social science research.

In fact, relying on only one news source almost guarantees a skewed vision of the world stage. Most media are good at providing a certain kind of information, but few are good at everything. Here's what the project found when it studied 2,125 stories in 57 outlets and 48 hours of radio and television programming for its report "A Day in the Life of the Media."


news sites mainly take news from print and wire services—very few do any independent reporting. While the Internet is easy to search and handy to use, especially in aggregating sites like Google News, it doesn't add much new "news" to the daily budget.


don't summarize the news day; they focus on various news subjects from other media. Less focused on breaking news, they show more concern for long-term issues. Most bloggers focus on opinion and analysis, but few conduct interviews or do original research.

Cable news

channels tell you what is happening at the moment, but they don't tend to follow stories from day to day. There's a lot of repetition during the news day, but stories are dropped when the next big thing hits. The reporting is the shallowest among all media studied.

Network TV

is distinguished by a huge difference between the networks' morning shows—which focus on emotional puff pieces and the anchors' personalities—and the nightly news. The three evening newscasts are almost identical—good for someone who wants a quick scan of the day's major national and international events.


cover the most topics, have the deepest sourcing, explore the greatest number of angles, and supply most of the content for the Internet. Sometimes the stories can be written in a language focused more on well-educated opinion leaders than is found in other media.

Local TV

focuses on "news you can use." Traffic, weather, sports, accidents, and crime take up almost all the evening newscasts. Complex issues involving government, taxes, and civic life are covered briefly, if at all.

Local radio

stations tend to focus on talk shows offering opinions or a forum for call-ins from listeners. What news is presented tends to be read from wire services or the local newspaper. The stories are brief, and there are few reports from the field.

The Iowa Dozen

Although today's journalism students are expected to master a range of competencies—online reporting, digital photography, design techniques, and even on-camera interviewing—they still use the same fundamental skills of gathering and reporting news.

Photo: Tom Langdon, UI Foundation UI School of Journalism - Adler Building

The UI School of Journalism is taking steps to make sure its students have a firm foundation in the principles and ethics of reporting, even as they learn a multitude of new technologies.

In 2004, as part of its accreditation by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the school adopted "The Iowa Dozen," a set of competencies and standards by which to evaluate students' learning.

Through this framework, whether they're writing, editing, or designing the Daily Iowan or producing, directing, or doing live interviews for its televised counterpart, students should be able to:

  • Write clearly;
  • Conduct research responsibly;
  • Edit carefully;
  • Use new media technologies thoughtfully;
  • Think about the values of free speech, diversity, creativity, independence, truth, accuracy, and fairness; and
  • Explore the history, structure, and economy of media organizations and the role of media in shaping cultures.