WIUM Tristates Public Radio

TV Ratings Periods are Meaningless

Jun 6, 2017

A recent TV News Check column suggests it's time to get rid of the "sweeps" ratings periods held in television four times a year.  The writer believes local newscasts should strive to deliver great reporting throughout the year instead of holding the best pieces for sweeps periods, which are used to set ad rates.

Shop Talk panelist Jasmine Crighton agrees. She said audiences expect journalists to do their job every day and not just during sweeps, which are held in February, May, July, and November. She said TV stories are sometimes held for weeks -- even though they’re completed -- so they can air during a sweeps period.

And Crighton wishes TV news departments did more deep investigative pieces throughout the year instead of saving them for those four months.  She thinks audiences want more investigative reporting.

Will Buss said newspapers sometimes use circulation numbers to decide which town’s government meetings to cover.  He doesn’t like the idea of basing news decisions on circulation. 

Buss also said that due to shrinking staff sizes, newspapers are sometimes deciding to publish stories after a minimum amount of reporting instead of delving deeper into an issue.

Rich Egger said news organizations must fill space every day and he agreed that sometimes they run stories that might merit more research.  He said the idea of TV newscasts holding back stories for weeks so pieces can run during sweeps is counter to the idea of what “news” is about. 

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.