According to a survey conducted by The Pew Research Center for People and the Press, roughly half of those polled say they rely on local broadcast and network newscasts as their principal source of campaign news. Covering politics well is not easy, especially in an era of declining news budgets and rising ratings expectations. As a result, many local news stations find it difficult to air quality campaign coverage, and research shows that quality political discourse is largely disappearing from local television news.

The Lear Center Local News Archive is a groundbreaking effort to study and archive local television news coverage of the 2004 elections across the country. This project:

  • tracks and reports on the quantity of local television coverage of campaigns
  • identifies and highlights quality campaign coverage
  • provides a searchable online archive of local television campaign stories

The archive allows access to campaign stories aired in 11 markets during the 2004 general election campaign – an invaluable tool for the public, academics, policymakers, advocates and broadcast professionals.

In addition, the 2004 archive enables comparisons of campaign coverage between English- and Spanish-language stations, both in national broadcasts and in selected local markets.

We hope that this project will encourage television stations around the country to improve campaign coverage in future elections, and provide a unique resource for broadcast professionals, journalists, academics, and the public.

The USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center

The Lear Center Local News Archive is a project of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, a multidisciplinary research and public policy center exploring implications of the convergence of entertainment, commerce, and society. On the USC campus, the Lear Center builds bridges between eleven schools whose faculty study aspects of entertainment, media, and culture. The Lear Center relies on donations from our supporters to make this program happen. We have a secure online setup available to process your credit card transactions. Please consider donating today! Beyond campus, it bridges the gap between the entertainment industry and academia, and between them and the public. Through scholarship and research; through its programs of visiting fellows, conferences, public events, and publications; and in its attempts to illuminate and repair the world, the Lear Center works to be at the forefront of discussion and practice in the field.

The Lear Center's research on local news coverage of campaigns began with the 1998 gubernatorial election in California. This study found that:

  • of over 7500 hours of total news coverage aired during the last three months of the campaign, less than 35 hours were devoted to the race for Governor
  • 60% of this coverage focused on strategy

In 2000, the Lear Center conducted a nationwide study of 74 stations in the top 58 media markets. This study found that:

  • the average length of a candidate sound bite was just 14 seconds
  • 77% of all the stories about the presidential race focused on campaign strategy or the horserace, not issues

In 2002, the Lear Center conducted its largest study yet, collecting almost 11,000 stories from 142 stations. In a random sample of 7,460 stories on 122 stations, this study found that

  • only 44% of broadcasts contained any campaign coverage at all
  • less than 30% of campaign stories included candidates speaking
  • about half those broadcasts contained three or more paid political ads, and more than 80% of them aired at least one ad

Wisconsin NewsLab

The NewsLab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a unique state-of-the art facility that has the infrastructure, technical skill, and supervisory capability to capture, clip, code, analyze and archive any media in any market – domestic or international – in real time. Video can be gathered, digitized, sorted and archived automatically by the InfoSite system, a media analysis product of CommIT Technology Solutions of Madison, Wisconsin ( This system includes a variety of automatic validation checks to ensure superior coding reliability and logical consistency. With over a terabyte of storage, the NewsLab servers manage data, encode and archive video, and serve content through one of many custom media analysis tools, both internally, and to the rest of the world via the Internet. The Newslab director is Erika Franklin Fowler. The University of Wisconsin Advertising Project ( is also housed in the NewsLab facility, where it tracks real time political advertising flows across the nation.

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