We Interrupt This Newscast

The book shows that 'how' a story is reported is more important for building ratings than what the story is about.

How to Improve Local News and Win Ratings, Too Annotated Edition
With Marion Just, Todd L. Belt, Atiba Pertilla, Walter Dean, Dante Chinni

Based on the largest study of local news ever undertaken, We Interrupt This Newscast delves into hard data to find out what really drives viewership on TV. The numbers reveal that many of the conventional ideas that dominate decision making in local TV news decision making are myths. Democracy, however, is the worse for them. The idea that certain topics are ratings poison, for instance, doesn’t hold up. The notion that it has to bleed to lead actually irritates viewers. The key to winning viewers on television is not what you cover but whether you cover it well. The problem is quality is harder to do and the Pavlovian mythology of the dull viewer is a safe argument.


“The book… is We Interrupt This Newscast. … Get it. Read it. And maybe, most important, buy a copy for your boss.”

—Charles Gibson, ABC News, from his Paul White address to RTNDA, 2006


“Finally, someone has collected the data to prove what I have always believed: you don’t have to dumb down the news to get more viewers. The authors show conclusive evidence that if TV journalism is good, good ratings will follow. If enough news directors will just read this book, TV news could be changed forever and for the better.”

—Bob Schieffer, CBS News and Distinguished Professor, Texas Christian University


We Interrupt This Newscast exposes the conventional wisdom of TV newsgathering and newscast production for what it is, a collection of myths. Give a copy to every person in your newsroom and every person in your promotion department, and hope that your competitors never know it exists.”

— Jim Boyer, WHO-TV, Des Moines


“All of us who have devoted our careers to local news should celebrate We Interrupt This Newscast. The authors marshal compelling analysis and data to demonstrate that local news can survive and prosper if it focuses on well told local stories that deal with important ideas and issues.”

— Mike Devlin, WFAA-TV, Dallas


“At last, here is powerful evidence that explodes the pervasive myth that serious political broadcasts are money-losers. This landmark book, with its guidelines for producing appealing information-rich local news, may well stop the steady slide of local news into civic irrelevance. We Interrupt This Newscast is a clarion call for much-needed reforms, grounded in the realities of America’s news business.”

— Doris Graber, University of Illinois at Chicago


We Interrupt This Newscast is must reading for everyone in local news—print and broadcast alike—and for any citizen or student who cares about the future of news in their community. Through compelling evidence and analysis, the authors demonstrate how and why audiences reward quality journalism and why short-term thinking about profits is a lousy long-term ratings strategy.”

— Thomas E. Patterson, Harvard University