The Australian News Sampling Project (ANSP) assesses news output by specific geographic location/s to understand the local character and quantity of public interest journalism production and produces each as a case study. It has been designed to examine and contrast the volume and frequency of locally relevant news content at an individual community level. This project analyses samples of news coverage in a given month against two benchmarks: the amount of public interest journalism produced, and the relative localism of the stories to the audience.
As this body of work grows, comparative analysis will be available by similar geographies, demographics, economies, natural disasters and other emergency events.
For the purpose of this project, public interest journalism is defined as:
Original content that records, reports or investigates issues of public significance for Australians; issues relevant to engaging Australians in public debate and in informing democratic decision making, or content which relates to community and local events.
In practice, this means news relating to the functioning of government at all levels, including their agencies, foreign policy, the economy and significant public expenditure; crime and the courts; social services such as health and education; emergency services including police and fire; and community individuals and events, including local sport.
The localism of a story is both whether the story is local in nature – that is, affects a small and identifiable geographic community, such as a single town or local government area – and whether it is local specifically to the local government area being sampled, to a nearby LGA, or to a distant LGA. An article about a community event in Brisbane that is published in a newspaper in Adelaide might be a local story in its content, but it is not local to a South Australian audience.
The target sample size for each outlet is the less of 100 news articles or the entire month of content.
With this work, we seek to expand the amount of information about local news around Australia. This project fills a data gap in the existing Newsroom Mapping work through its focus on the content output, testing the underlying assumption that newspapers and websites are providing public interest journalism for their local communities.
This project is under active development and the scope of sampling, analysing, and reporting will change over time. The analysis is ongoing. Beginning in October, this survey will examine whether a story appears to be originally produced for its outlet, or appears to be externally or internally syndicated content.
Radio and television are not surveyed in this process. We can remotely audit print and digital news content, but it is much more difficult for us to reliably access radio or television news programming from outside of their broadcast areas. In almost all cases that we have found, there are no public digital archives of this broadcast news content available, meaning that assessments must also be done on live streams. This is a significant barrier to independent scrutiny, and not one that PIJI is resourced to overcome.
Released October 2022