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Journalism study: Nets soft on news

Org claims b'casters reporting fluff

NEW YORK — It’s official: Network news has gone soft again.

At least according to one org.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism will release the results of a study today that claims broadcast news is as fluffy as it was pre-Sept. 11.

“The world’s at war, and we’re back to the blithe times of last summer,” said D.C. group’s director, Tom Rosenstiel. “The ratio of hard news to soft news has shrunk.”

Media think tank, part of Columbia U.’s Graduate School of Journalism, examined story topics on three nets during the first 13 weeks of 2002 on nightly and morning broadcasts.

Content was broken down into two major categories: hard news — “front-page” types of stories relating to politics, policy and war, for example — and soft news: celebrity info, science, crime and lifestyle.

For example, the study would have considered San Francisco dog mauling a soft story because it related mostly to crime. Yet the Daniel Pearl murder would have fallen into the hard-news category because of its international implications and its relationship to the war.

“Twenty-five years ago, you wouldn’t have seen the dog-mauling (story) on the news,” Rosenstiel said. “Networks are increasingly feature-driven organizations. So now we’re back to consumer investigations about dirty yogurt and bad teenage drivers.”