Golding and Elliot (1979) suggested the definition of news is purely decided by specific organisational processes and their methods of communication. This means what is considered a breaking news story differs as well as how much coverage the topic gets across media outlets and platforms. Aiming to represent the public, journalists’ ensure that people acquire the knowledge necessary to learn how society is governed (Schultz, 1998), to reach this goal the broadcaster’s must direct the breaking news coverage in a way that attracts their specific target audience, meaning the use of different platforms is crucial. With close reference to theoretical research, traditional radio broadcasting and the interweb, this essay will analyse the similarities and differences in coverage of the same news story between Radio New Zealand and Newshub/RadioLIVE and how the use of media platforms affects the success of a stories viewership.
On the 7th of August at approximately 5.30pm, Radio New Zealand National (RNZ), the public service broadcaster of New Zealand, released the radio broadcast of a breaking news story informing that two Green Party MP’s, David Clendon and Kennedy Graham were threatening to resign if Metiria Turei didn’t stand down as co-leader of the party following her admittance to benefit fraud. Newshub soon followed with their own updates but differed to that of RNZ in how the story was covered across different platforms. To understand how a broadcaster reaches its target audience, it is first important to note their differences in age demographic. Radio New Zealand has a target audience of 10+ and Newshub is between the ages of 35-64.
The radio market in New Zealand is one of the profitable in the world (McEwan, 2008). According to the 2016 NZ Media Trends Report (The Neilsen company), approximately 82% of the New Zealand population listen to Radio each week over the age of 10. Of this, RNZ states that the “average time spent listening has increased to 12 hours 45 minutes a week, a terrific result at a time when people have more media choices than before.” (RNZ Audience Research, 2017). On Checkpoint with John Campbell, it was broadcasted that the two MP’s had in fact already resigned due to The New Zealand Herald stating so online. Further into the broadcast, it was corrected to say they had only threatened to. This shows the competitiveness of radio to be the first to break a story, leaving a risk of jeopardising the accuracy of the broadcasts. As Cushion (2012) suggests, “there appears to be an editorial acceptance that sacrificing a degree of accuracy in a fast-moving breaking news story is an editorial price worth paying” (p.84).
Although Newshub, which is simulcasted on RadioLIVE every day at 6pm has a different target audience, their coverage over the radio was relatively the same. The next morning however, RNZ had exclusively interviewed the two MP’S, as well as Party Leader James Shaw. The 9AM Morning Talk slot with Mark Sainsbury instead asked for people to call for their opinion on the matter and followed the updates that RNZ had released, with no exclusive details themselves. As a public service broadcaster, the story was covered differently in the sense that RNZ’s purpose is to serve the public interest and RadioLIVE were more interested in “quick-fire talk with people most affected by what’s happening in NZ and around the world” (Radio Live, 2017). In this case, the age of the audience is not what is targeted, but the interest of the listener’s and the news values of the specific organisations at hand.
Remediation of technology occurs due to new media, specifically the internet which has changed the way that traditional news outlets construct and distribute news (Chaffee & Metzger, 2001). With 4% more people using the internet per week than listening to radio, New Zealanders using the internet per week, online communication is a fast, cheap and easily accessible way to distribute and consume news. (The Neilsen Company, 2016). The internet is therefore a beneficial resource for those that wish to partake in political engagement. In coverage of the breaking story, both networks utilised this new media through the use of their downloadable apps, websites and social media sites like YouTube and Facebook. The difference in how this specific story was covered by RNZ and Newshub across the internet is the aforementioned independent information that RNZ put out. A live Youtube broadcast was streamed of the first interview with Kennedy and Clendon, with RNZ being the first organisation to land an interview. Broadcasted both online and by radio, this was shared further across other media platforms. This is done because their target audience is 10+, so sharing the same content across all media platforms ensures that the broadcaster reaches all of the demographics within this.
With 6 out of 10 New Zealanders choosing to read their news content online, Newshub took a calmer approach to the content they shared online. Rather than producing varied content across multiple platforms like that of RNZ, the company chose to share the website content and articles to Facebook and the app, which in hindsight still accomplishes the goal of reaching their specific target audience because different media platforms tend to attract different audiences and age groups. Multiple theorists actually suggest that with websites including social networking to the process, viewers are encouraged to “like” or “tweet” a story, (Singer et al., 2011) which in turn results in more coverage and therefore a success in reach different audiences across different platforms. (Hermida, Fletcher, Korell & Logan, 2012).
Throughout this essay, the breaking news story of two Green MP’s resignation differed across multi-platform and multi-media sources. This concludes that how a breaking news story is covered across the radio and internet specifically by RNZ and Newshub depends largely on the target audience and the ability to produce original content. RNZ’s coverage conclusively was more extensive than Newshub and was produced in a way that effectively attracted their audiences across different platforms, therefore fulfilling their role as a public service broadcaster.
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