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Group Studies Trends in TV News Reports


The Network News Study Group of MIT in an attempt to determine political patterns in their reports.

The group funded by the John and Mary B. Markle Foundation, has thus for concluded that the CBS evening news spent more time covering the Watergate Case and the U.S. wheat sale to the Soviet Union that the other networks did, Karen A. Dolmatch, a member of the group, said that the conclusion is based on "easy preliminary stopwatching."

Dolmatch, a Wellesley sophomore, is one of 15 MIT and Wellesley students in the research group which is headed by Edwin Diamond, a visiting lecturer in Political Science at MIT faculty members are also involved.

The group initially videotaped news broadcasts and compiled a coded series of still photographs of facial expressions of the anchormen.

One section of the study group is assessing the amounts of time devoted to various news reports and the importance of the anchorman's enunciation and emphasis of certain words. "We want to know if Walter Cronkite has trouble saying 'Vietnam'," Dolmatch said yesterday.

Another section is working with non-verbal expressions of the anchormen.

"These guys spend so much time trying to achieve the great stone face that it's easy to detect an errant expression," said Dolmatch, who is in this section of the research group.

A third contingent of the research group is devising a computer program to internet the data and to determine patterns in a network's reports over a given period.

Preliminary results indicate that CBS spent 25 minutes, more than the other networks tracing the beginnings of the Watergate Case. Cronkite also presented a three part report last summer on the details of the wheat sale to the Soviet Union.

The group showed that NBC devoted more time that then other networks to the October 25 news conference of Henry A. Kissinger '50, during which be declared "Peace is at hand."

Both ABC and CBS spent 15 minutes on the subject, while the event and its ramifications commanded the entire NBC Nightly News broadcast.

Dolmatch said that the group will not attempt to outline biases of different networks.

"We will probably publish this for investigators of the network, for people with political reasons," she said yesterday

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