How the Networks Tackled Syria – by the Numbers

Pew Report says CNN outshone Al Jazeera America, which was more in line with Fox News and MSNBC’s coverage

Though Al Jazeera America touts itself as an alternative to news channels that favor opinion over reporting, CNN outshone the new channel when it came to a time spent on the Syria crisis, according to a report by Pew Research Center.

CNN also had far more reported pieces than commentary and/or opinion than AJAM, according to Pew.

The report — which included AJAM, BBC America, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC —  looked at Syrian coverage on the networks between Aug. 26 and 31. It focused on how AJAM approached the first huge international story since its Aug. 20 launch and how its coverage stacked up against its rivals.

Also read: Univision, Al Jazeera Anchors Slam Obama After Being Left Out of Media Blitz

While CNN led the pack on time spent on Syria, with 381 minutes. AJAM was next with 273, then Fox News with 220 and MSNBC with just 194 minutes. The report noted that BBC America tied MSNBC there, even though BBC America spent a third less of its airtime on news programming.

CNN also outshone the other channels when it came to using reported pieces rather than commentary or opinion. Eighty-six percent of CNN’s stories were reported, Pew said, leaving just 14 percent for commentary or opinion. BBC America followed closely behind with 77 percent. MSNBC, AJAM and Fox News trailed with 64, 63, and 59 percent, respectively — putting AJAM more in line with its more commentary-focused competitors.

Also read: Syria Crisis: How the Networks are Covering

AJAM did, the report noted, go to reports from correspondents more often than nearly every network. Twenty-seven percent of its stories were from outside the studio, a much higher number than MSNBC (18 percent), Fox News (14 percent) and even BBC America (15 percent). Only CNN, with 36 percent, left the studio more often.

Yet AJAM president Kate O’Brian was pleased with the results, saying in a statement that Pew’s report “validates everything we have been saying about the high quality journalism Al Jazeera America provides to its viewers.”

“As the report indicates, Al Jazeera America’s coverage shows that is an American news channel that provides unbiased, fact-based reporting that doesn’t have a partisan or other point of view.”