Journalism

Here’s the Local News Topic People Want Most

Research into local news consumers finds that there’s one local news topic that’s at the top of the list of viewer interest.

Which local news topic is most important to you and your family?

The Pew Research Center recently published results of a research project on what local news consumers look for. I mentioned the project in a recent post about where most news consumers get their news.

The findings should surprise no one: weather came out on top as the number one local news topic. Weather, after all, can have a great impact on people’s lives. Even a small thunderstorm can disrupt people’s daily plans or create a more challenging commute to or from work.

The research found that 70% of those surveyed classified weather information as “important for daily life.” When you combine responses of people who call it either “important” or “interesting” to follow, you come up with a whopping 95%.

Pew came up with 11 different news topics, ranging from weather to crime to politics to sports (and much in between) and asked people to rank those topics in terms of how easy it is to find coverage on them.

Weather came out on top again, though 76% of respondents said weather information is “very easy to stay informed about.”

Given that most television newscasts have more than one weather segment and most news sites have some sort of weather information — even if it’s a widget to a local National Weather Service office’s closest weather station — I’m a bit surprised that number isn’t a bit higher.

Weather’s important, but people complain, anyway.

The next time there’s severe weather where you live and you see your local news station on the air with a weather update, take a look at their Facebook page.

The more severe the weather, the more likely you’ll see people raising holy hell about their favorite show being interrupted.

Back in December, WCIA-TV in Champaign, Illinois, received “hundreds of complaints” because weather updates interrupted the SEC Championship game between Alabama and Georgia. The station’s general manager told the local News-Gazette that the importance of the sporting event never entered into the decision to interrupt programming as a tornado threatened the area.

“Anytime that people’s lives can be at risk, we will break into the programming,” Gary Hackler said.

Nearly two dozen people were injured in the storm and about 100 homes suffered some amount of damage. Of those, 66 suffered major damage, the report said.

Weather is so important, news consumers say. But sometimes, even when an EF-3 tornado with peak winds of 155 mph is threatening, a ball game is somehow more important?!?

Some things don’t add up and probably never will.

But as long as news consumers tell journalists weather is the top priority, and as long as weather threatens lives, journalists are going to put that research into practice.

Just as they should.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.