Local News Coverage

November 25, 2009

By: Laura Franzini

This post marks week 3 of a three-part series on the coverage of the Boston-based WBUR program Here & Now during the month of October 2009. As the previous post in the series focused on Here & Now’s national news coverage during October, this week I will discuss the program’s coverage of local news and events.

In analyzing Here & Now’s local news coverage, one can see that the only thread that ties the stories together is the fact that they discuss an event that happened in Boston or they feature a local expert being interviewed about a topic.

This broadness means that stories can range a home genetic test developed by a Boston University professor to a new documentary about a local woman who died from AIDS.

Most of the time, these local stories are saved for the second half of the broadcast—especially if they also fall under the “arts” category. This scheduling means that, according to the structure of the program (as I described in a previous post), that Here & Now covers most local stories as secondary features, giving the headline spot to more widespread international and national news the feature spot.

Nashua Telegraph staff photo by Don Himsel

However, there was one exception to this pattern, when four small town New Hampshire teenagers were arrested for allegedly killing a woman and brutally injuring her daughter while they slept. On October 7, Here & Now led its news coverage with this story, which included an interview with the editor of the Nashua Telegraph, a newspaper that is published in a city nearby to where the attacks occurred.

This story was the only coverage of a local event that was presented as “breaking news.” The other local stories illustrated the newsworthy aspects of prominence, proximity, meaning, and human-interest, rather than the importance and timeliness aspects that a homicide embodies.

Because of these weightier newsworthy aspects, Here & Now made the right choice in placing the attacks in Mont Vernon, NH, as the headline story. While many of the other local stories covered the lighter side of news (such as the arts or “Halloween science”), this story was much more serious and therefore capable of grabbing an audience’s attention—exactly what a headline in any news publication or broadcast should do.