Reporting Civil Litigation on Local Television News
20 Pages Posted: 15 May 2008 Last revised: 28 Sep 2008
Date Written: September 25, 2008
What is the nature of the coverage of civil litigation on local television news (the most commonly used news source according to a recent survey)? That is the question considered in this paper. Drawing upon newsclips from 2004 (11 media markets around the U.S.), 2006 (9 media markets in the Midwest), and 2007 (9 media markets in the Midwest), we present a brief, preliminary portrait of litigation as seen on television news. We find (a) torts make up a minority of reports, (b) very few verdicts are reported, (c) dollar figures are mentioned in a small proportion of cases but when mentioned tend to be large, (d) silly cases are reported infrequently, and (e) a notable proportion of news reports involve well-known figures from entertainment, sports, or politics. We conclude with some speculations about the implications of our analysis for debates over civil justice "reform."
Keywords: civil litigation, media, news reporting
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