Want local news? You'll find it in TNT, not on TV

Executive editorApril 7, 2013 

We hear it from time to time. People say they don’t need the paper; they can get their local news from TV.

Of course, we’d rather they get their news from The News Tribune. But we also know that if they depend on Seattle TV, they’re getting only a fraction of the news about Pierce County.

To test this, I conducted an audit for four mornings last week, watching Seattle TV news while I exercised. I paired 30 minutes of cardio on my elliptical (good for my heart) with 30 minutes of TV news (the length of the shows before they begin repeating themselves). The stations likely ran different stories at other times during those days, but mornings are the one time I consistently tune in. It’s also the time of day that could compete with a person’s morning newspaper-reading habit.

On Monday, I watched KING-5. On Tuesday, KOMO-4. On Wednesday, KIRO-7. On Thursday, KCPQ-13. I tuned in to each during the 6:30 a.m. half hour.

Here’s what I found: On those four mornings combined, Seattle TV news shows ran exactly three stories about Pierce County. Three.

One was about a derelict boat that sank in the Hylebos Waterway in January. One was about a Tacoma man whose murder conviction was overturned. And one was about a 19-year-old man charged with the rape and murder of a Tacoma 2-year-old.

Your TNT had all of those stories. In fact, the overturned conviction story was taken from us (as is frequently the case), and the TV station said so.

In those same four days, your TNT had 54 stories about Pierce County.

They had 3. We had 54.

In addition to those 54 local stories, the Monday-Thursday editions of your TNT had:

  • 22 news stories of statewide interest, more than twice as many as TV.
  • 8 editorials or opinion columns on Pierce County topics, along with 12 letters to the editor from local readers. The TV stations had none.
  • 93 national or international news stories, compared to 32 on TV (although their network shows carry most of those).
  • A features section with local gardening stories and two pages of recipes inside. Plus, four calendars of things to do in Pierce County and four daily “Looking Back” history pieces. The Seattle TV stations ran two national features and one local go-and-do story.
  • Four full sections of sports coverage, including TNT reports on the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders and Pierce County high schools. The only sports story on TV was the possible move of the NBA team to Seattle, which ran in your paper, as well.

Seattle TV did beat us in a couple of areas.

Over those four days, they aired a total of 33 stories about Western Washington (their definition of local) outside Pierce County. Most of them were about Seattle. If you live in Seattle, you stood a pretty good chance of getting 5-10 stories a day from TV that were local for you. Not bad.

They also aired two to four segments each of weather and traffic each half hour, more than we had.

But it’s noteworthy which Pierce County news stories were covered by Seattle TV. Two of the three were crime stories.

We had a number of crime stories, too, but here are some of the 51 Pierce County stories that didn’t appear on the morning TV shows:

  • State Farm moving 2,000 jobs into downtown Tacoma.
  • The Puyallup dispatcher who calmly talked down a man who killed his two grown children.
  • Peninsula School District showing preliminary interest in authorizing charter schools.
  • 89-year-old Sam Daniels, who’s been a barber on Tacoma’s Hilltop for 55 years.
  • Tacoma’s Franciscan Health System trying to avert a crisis for 54,000 people insured by Regence Blue Shield.
  • The city of Tacoma and state Department of Corrections working to avoid housing too many ex-cons in a single neighborhood.
  • Soldiers returning to Joint Base Lewis McChord having to fix their own equipment after the Army reduces the number of contractors.
  • University Place opening a museum.
  • Tacoma ranking among the least costly locations in the West for operating a major distribution warehouse, which bode well for our local economy.
  • And the Tacoma Rainiers opening with four players of interest to the Mariners’ front office.

We can never get to all the stories waiting to be told in Pierce County, but that list paints a more complete – and kind – picture of the community we live in.

Seattle TV stations do a lot of things well. Some good journalists work there. But their center of gravity is 30 miles north of here.

If you live in Pierce County, don’t say you can get your local news from TV.

It’s just not true.

Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434

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