Obsessed With Police Misconduct: Top Network News Story for Another Month

As they did in April, the evening news shows on the broadcast networks spent more airtime in May talking about alleged police misconduct than any other single topic – nearly 109 minutes, more than the amount devoted to the Amtrak train derailment, the horrific floods in Texas or the war against ISIS.

Nearly all of that network airtime was devoted to just three instances of alleged misconduct (in Baltimore, Cleveland and Madison, Wisconsin), plus general discussion of the topic. In contrast, all of the other murders committed in the U.S. in May garnered less than half as much time (50 minutes and 48 seconds).

But murders committed by non-police remained a huge problem. In a May 28 report, the CBS Evening News acknowledged that homicide rate in Baltimore spiked during May to 38, from 22 in April and 15 in March. Yet CBS suggested the blame for this could be placed on the police themselves. Correspondent Jeff Pegues reported that “arrests in the city are down by more than 50 percent, leaving some to question whether police are stepping back on purpose. In a statement today, the police union says officers are ‘under siege’ and ‘more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty.’”

Overall, CBS gave the most air time to stories of alleged police misconduct, followed by NBC and ABC.

May’s network coverage of this topic is less than April’s, where stories of alleged police misconduct got six times the coverage that stories about ISIS got, despite no shortage of news involving ISIS during that month.

— Mike Ciandella is Research Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Mike Ciandella on Twitter.