By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A Northeastern study shows how animation can enhance local TV news

My Northeastern colleagues Mike Beaudet and John Wihbey, along with some amazing students, have been studying ways to improve local television news. Their latest installment looks at how animation can increase viewer interest, attract younger viewers and make it easier to understand the essential facts of a story.

According to a summary of their findings that they wrote along with graduate student Anna Campbell for

After viewing the local news stories that took a fresh approach to animation and graphics, viewers preferred that style across the board, with audiences more likely to rate the animated stories as clear, compelling, and memorable. The graphically-enhanced stories were generally perceived both as more relevant in content and resonant in tone. Animation also captured positive descriptions in the open-ended questions we posed.

As you’ll see if you watch the video presentation above, animation essentially takes the place of irrelevant and boring B-roll. And when Beaudet, Campbell and Wihbey refer to animation, they don’t mean something you might see on “Adult Swim.” Rather, they’re talking about presenting visualizations that help viewers understand what they’re watching.

Media observers like me don’t always pay much attention to local TV news. But it’s incredibly important — it’s the second-most popular news medium that we have (the internet comes in first), and it’s more trusted than other forms of news. So congratulations to my colleagues and their students for finding ways to make it better.

You can find more of their work at Storybench, a School of Journalism web publication that covers media innovation.

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  1. Desirée

    “Rather, they’re talking about presenting visualizations that help viewers understand what they’re watching.” That’s what I want to do!!!!!!

  2. Adam Smith

    I did find this compelling. One, exception, however, was the part around 5 minutes when there was the video of the cluster of Covid deaths. I don’t think the video was the right choice there, as it was not appropriate and came off too cartoonish for the topic; also, the report didn’t have a lot of numbers that were hard to take in. But in the other examples, the animation worked well.

  3. richard allen

    I really objected to the visual of the black vs white drivers. It promotes racism, when in reality police stop you for the poor condition of your car not your race. License registration expired, non working head lights taillights, driving with donut tires, bungee cords on the trunk….. Fix your damn car before you drive on the street.

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