Unions Not Fit to be Covered by TV News

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Anne Marie Murphy

Labor unions have had a tough time getting covered by the major news networks, according to a new study.


Less than one-half of 1% of all news stories aired over a three-year period involved organized labor, Federico Subervi, a professor of media markets at Texas State University, found after examining broadcasts from 2008, 2009 and 2011. Subervi’s study was funded by the Communications Workers of America and The Newspaper Guild and presented at the National Conference for Media Reform.


A total of 172 news stories about unions were produced on NBC, ABC, CNN and CBS out of a total of 16,000 news segments annually, the report said. That comes out to 0.3%.


Of the labor-oriented stories the network ran, most were about protests, pickets or other public events, giving viewers the impression that “the narrative of labor is conflict,” said Subervi. “Moreover, the discourse and framing continues to fault the workers and their representatives for any conflict or impasse, not the business, company or government.”


The media response to the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre in December typified the problem. When Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), gave a speech to express the NRA’s official position on the tragedy, he received extensive national media coverage. However, little attention was given to the fact that the six teachers who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School were members of the Newtown Federation of Teachers Local 1727, including 52-year old special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who was killed while using her body to shield her students from bullets. 


The NRA has about 4 million members, while 14.4 million Americans belong to labor unions.


-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Labor & Unions in National TV Network News: Preliminary Summary Report (by Federico Subervi, Communications Workers of America and Newspaper Guild) (pdf)

Labor Report: Four Major TV News Networks Ignore Unions (by Mike Ludwig, Truthout)

Union Affiliation Of Employed Wage And Salary Workers By Selected Characteristics (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Unions Decline Most Everywhere in U.S. Except California (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


Leave a comment