Most Americans—some 55 percent—get their news from television. That’s more than double the number who look to the web first, and more than five times the number who turn to print.
So television news steers, to a great degree, our political discourse. But unlike text on the page or screen, it remains more difficult to analyze. TV arrives as sound and moving images—both of which algorithms have a harder time making sense of.
That’s why a recent pilot project from the Internet Archive is so welcome. Using the Archive’s massive archive of television news, Georgetown scholar Kalev Leetaru tracked all the locations mentioned on U.S. television news between June 2009 and October 2013, then plotted them on a world map.
On the foundation’s blog, archivist Roger Macdonald writes that the map constitutes the “first large-scale glimpses of the geography of American television news, beginning to reveal which areas receive outsized attention and which are neglected.”
Leetaru’s project isn’t the first to examine quantitatively how TV news represents the world. Last year, scholars in Germany and Israel examined how domestic TV news sources in different countries covered “foreign news.” MIT’s Media Lab, too, has mapped where the Boston Globe directs its attention; they’ve also looked at how often online news sources speak to men and women.