For Voters, 9.5-Second Bites

Voters wanting to understand a ballot issue or a candidate's position before the Nov. 5 elections will need to look beyond local television news.

Findings by a joint project of the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin show the local news offers scant coverage of what could be an important midterm election. The study is analyzing more than 2,482 prime-time news broadcasts in a sample of the largest media markets. Between Sept. 18 and Oct. 4, it found just over a third had any election coverage at all. And when a candidate did speak on the broadcasts, it was for an average of just 9.5 seconds.

The study did find some news outlets that do conduct more in-depth reporting on campaign issues. Those stations had volunteered to be part of a consortium of stations committed to journalistic "best practices." Some also offer free airtime to candidates.

TV stations need to recognize a civic duty to cover campaigns in ways that are meaningful to voters.

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