Royal Baby Topped Afghan War In 2013 Network Coverage

The Tyndall Report catalogued which stories received the most coverage from nightly newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC.
Posted at 9:34 PM, Jan 11, 2014

For anyone who's wondered which stories the big three networks covered most in 2013, this report's for you. It's the Tyndall Report from Andrew Tyndall, who tracks how much time nightly newscasts for ABC, CBS and NBC spend on the year's major news stories. And the results are enlightening, to say the least.

The main networks' third-most covered story of 2013: health care reform's rollout — which obviously meant a lot of negative press for the White House.

No. 2: another politics story — the federal budget battles and October's government shutdown. 

And the single story the networks spent the most time on in 2013? The Boston Marathon bombing. It was by far the most heavily covered, with 432 minutes of air time dedicated to it. (Via ABC)

Which is interesting. It was certainly a dramatic story with implications across Boston, but did it really deserve the most national air time of any story in 2013? Despite all the attention paid to it, the death toll from the bombing was three.

Compare that to the casualty count of more than 100 Americans in the Afghan War last year. And yet, the war was only the 16th-most covered story by ABC, CBS and NBC.

Even the royal baby got more attention than that. The birth was No. 15, with more than two hours of nightly newscast coverage overall — about half of that coming from NBC.

And the Syrian Civil War? By some estimates, more than 50,000 people died in the conflict just in 2013. It received about two hours less coverage than the Boston bombing overall, though it did rank fourth of the networks' most-covered stories. (Via Sky News)

Also notable, the NSA spying uncovered by Edward Snowden was the networks' ninth-most covered story in 2013. (Via The Guardian)

The Tyndall Report also does us the favor of breaking coverage down by each specific network's newscast. And looking at those stats, CBS Evening News likely took the most hard-hitting tack of the three networks.

Scott Pelley and his team at CBS provided more coverage of national news with wide-ranging impacts, such as the gun law debate, and went to its foreign reporters in Egypt and Syria more than any other network. CBS also avoided entertainment stories and the type of true crime dramas that pull in viewers but have few national ramifications.

ABC would be on the other end of this spectrum. Its newscast spent much more time than CBS or NBC on the trials of Ariel Castro and George Zimmerman. ABC also devoted massive amounts of air time to telling viewers it was cold outside, with far more weather coverage than its rivals.

Tyndall even addressed ABC's coverage in his report, writing: "2013 marks the year when ABC World News finally rejected the mission of presenting a serious newscast. ... ABC's newscast is now certifiably Disneyfied" — a reference to ABC's parent company, Disney.

ABC has since responded to Tyndall's report by saying its network focuses on giving viewers the information relevant to their everyday lives. And to be fair, the network looks to be simply responding to what its viewers want. It consistently beat CBS in the ratings through late 2013, with Brian Williams and NBC leading the pack.