Hearst Television Inc., parent of one of the country’s largest television station groups, will once again devote significant resources to news coverage of the political process, through a project called Commitment 2012. The project marks a renewal of the Company’s biannual election-coverage efforts, which began withCommitment 2000 and which have earned a Peabody Award and multiple USC Annenberg Walter Cronkite Awards, including six group-wide honors.
Hearst Television owns the leading television stations in Des Moines, Iowa (KCCI-TV), and Manchester, New Hampshire(WMUR-TV) — the two markets where the 2012 presidential campaign begins with the Iowa caucuses, on January 3, and the New Hampshire primary, on January 10.
Commitment 2012 will once again involve an intensified effort at the Company’s 25 news-producing TV stations, and on their respective local websites and mobile sites, to provide comprehensive local TV news coverage of national, state and local election campaigns on-air, online and via mobile devices.
A cornerstone feature of Commitment 2012 will be “12 in 12” – a pledge of a minimum 12 minutes’ airtime for daily political news and candidate-discourse coverage per weekday and, where possible, on weekends, in the 30 days leading up to the Primary and General elections at each of its news stations. This represents a 20% increase – or some 25 additional hours for a total of 150 hours group-wide over the 30-day period – from the 10 minutes daily which Hearst first pledged in 2006. In addition, each station will produce a “Virtual Town Hall” or discussion in the 30 days leading up to the election.
Hearst Television’s prior biennial “Commitment” projects have featured “Town Hall Meetings,” debates, and “AdWatch,” “Issue Check” and “Truth Check” segments. For Commitment 2012, the group will introduce features including:
- “Commitment 2012 Investigates,” a content initiative bringing together award-winning reporters from the Hearst station group, producing a series of reports throughout the year examining the campaign money trail and other issues important to viewers;
- An Election App, due for launch in spring 2012, with information and content customizable by market to help voters make informed decisions on-the-go – all part of an effort to deliver a comprehensive “3-screen experience” for audiences; and
- An exclusive partnership with PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website of the Tampa Bay Times. Hearst Television’s Washington, D.C., Bureau will produce segments on PolitiFact’s fact-checking about the presidential campaign using the website’s Truth-O-Meter. This marks the first partnership of this scope between PolitiFact and a major local-television company.
Hearst recently earned its sixth consecutive group-wide USC Annenberg Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism, in recognition of its “Commitment 2010” coverage of the 2010 election season. The Cronkite Awards, named for the legendary CBS newsman, were established at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication following the 2000 election season to recognize excellence in television coverage of politics and political issues, quickly becoming the industry’s most recognized honor in the field. They have been issued six times – following the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 election seasons. The Hearst station group has received the Cronkite for the Station Group category each time; its six consecutive honors surpass the total of Cronkite Awards to any other single entity in any category during the life of the awards. Hearst stations WCVB-TV, Boston; WESH-TV, Orlando; WBAL-TV, Baltimore; WISN-TV,Milwaukee; and WGAL-TV, Lancaster-Harrisburg, also have been honored individually with Cronkites.
Hearst also earned a Peabody Award in 2009 for its group-wide coverage of the 2008 elections – marking Hearst’s fifthPeabody in seven years.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Hearst as it expands political coverage in such a bold way,” said Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact. “It will be great to see our Truth-O-Meter in Hearst’s newscasts.”
“We will continue to urge major political candidates to appear on our television stations,” said David Barrett, President and CEO of Hearst Television Inc. “In return, we pledge to provide the most thoughtful, in-depth and responsible electronic news coverage of the political process in our markets. And we promise to do so in a way that effectively reaches voters of all demographics – on-air, online and on-the-go.”