Ohio Journalism Students Answer Call to Uncover Political Ad Data

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I was very pleased to find this video in my inbox this morning. Two intrepid journalism students from Kent State — Megan Closser and Shanice Dunning — took me up on my challenge to visit their local TV stations and uncover data behind the political ads they run. Naturally, they took their cameras, but faced a surprising amount of resistance to using them.

The FCC is expected to vote this Friday on a proposal that will require broadcasters to post their ad data online, so students like these — as well as you — won’t have to play detective to find out how loudly money talks on TV.

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Updated: June 1, 2012

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  • Bob Fry

    Wow, nice reporting guys!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1470078343 Marian L. Fisher

    Very eye opening.  If the local television stations can’t be open and above-board, how can we expect the national networks to be any different.   Get busy FCC!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Kern/1190876241 Richard Kern

    Who rakes in all the money spent on political advertizing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Kern/1190876241 Richard Kern

    Who rakes in all the money spent on political advertizing?  I’m  sure they want discression for their clients..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kay-E-Hale/100000684142411 Kay E. Hale

    great reporting from students of my old alma mater!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Garrity/1270650567 Michael Garrity

    Good job, guys–kind of interesting—that television stations with major news operations–thwarted student journalists from doing reporting on them–and making it harder for the public to get copies of documents that are required by law, to me made freely and openly public—-it is has long been the case that the owners of most commercial stations forget something—that they can only operate their businesses thanks to their use of the public airwaves.

  • GMan

     Your comment is known as a non-sequitur (a  conclusion which is not based on the premise)  Although, following your logic, your argument would be against “Big Government”  as you conclude the larger an entity is the less open and truthful it is. 

  • Anonymous

     Actually, I think you missed the analogy here. It’s small to large, child to parent. The entities are related by the business that they are in.

  • Kalpal

    Media ownership is interested in income not in keeping the public informed of how much money is moved and into whose coffers.

  • Herons

    Extremely well done and an eye-opener.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rosanne.catalano Rosanne Catalano

    Interesting video! If these TV stations have nothing to hide, why not allow the cameras in? I applaud those three journalism students for trying to do what journalists are supposed to do – report the TRUTH.

  • Aelisabeth Cox

    Wonderful work from these journalism students!  My son is not yet in college, but I want him to see just what a difference he will be able to make soon.  A wonderful example!

  • Anonymous

    Well done! I also liked how Mr. Moyers put this challenge out directly to teachers/students, and that some were willing to take up that challenge!

  • Meyerfc

    So…as with manyother “should be’s” we find that, at least in the Cleveland market, free and open doesn’t exactly mean that. This 2+-minute video speaks volumes about corporate America’s tactics to keep what they do in the shadows. Great job, students.

  • Anonymous

    These students did a great job.

  • colorado

    Very impressed with these three students, who are already performing at a level we would appreciate from all journalists.  Alas, can’t say the same for the three TV stations, although I guess they are preforming like many other TV stations – protect and promote the big money behind politics.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_A25OV6OSSWMBG2IB5J3BWCS36Y Lightbearer

    Good journalism.

  • http://twitter.com/sodors Sodors

    So, will the TV stations have a response?  What about the consumer reporters at all the stations?  I have to say, with no response, this story makes you appear “it’s good enough for them, but not for me.”

  • Anonymous

    Great piece! But, this is nothing new. The best lesson for the students is to be used as cannon fodder in Bills challenge!  

  • Rosasrojos

    It would also be interesting to learn if there is a bias in how ads are charged based on the political party of origin.

  • Anonymous

    It would be illegal, but we’ve seen plenty of illegal things happen.  Somebody like Fox woudn’t engage in it explicitly.  While Fox’s actually “news” (Chris Wallace, et al) may provide the cover for being “fair and balanced”, the rest of the network is dedicated to simply giving “friendly” coverage to GOP candidates and “unfriendly” coverage to Democratic candidates.  That’s how a station like Fox goes about providing the equivalent of “biased advertising” without being explicit about it.  Nobody would have heard about the Tea Party even today if they didn’t start being groomed, promoted and usurped by FoxNews.  FoxNews and the ultra-conservative powerbrokers grabbed the fledgling Tea Party, gutted it, injected their own messaging, then started promoting it on FoxNews and at carefully staged rallies with carefully selected speakers.

  • Anonymous

    This information not only needs to be posted online by TV stations, but there should be a requirement that it be posted online in both human-readable format and a FCC standardized computer-readable format.  The FCC should make it possible for American citizens to automate the collection of all this data into one big common database that can be searched, summarized, cross-referenced, etc.  This is a DEMOCRACY which inherently means the voters have an all-prevailing RIGHT to this information.  Since our democracy is by far the most important thing in our country, the RIGHT of the voters to be provided this information in a form most easily digested by the voters trumps all other concerns.

  • http://twitter.com/aggsveprogressv AgressiveProgressive

    Instead of making copies, the journo students could have used cameras on their phones to take pics of the records and post them on FB

  • Guest

     This is a democracy?

  • Usertrinity9426

    Just wanted to say thank you for doing this piece. I’m live in Cleveland and it gave insight as to what’s going on at the local TV stations. 

  • Anonymous

    Herein lies one of the differences between corporate and government.  The corporations that have taken over our gov. are not answerable to the Constitution or laws that require a transparent gov.  For instance, one can file a Freedom of Information Act request to get information from the government.  One cannot do the same with a corporation.

  • Anonymous

    A corporation, even media corporations, ar not by nature democratic.  We live in a time when there is much confusion about the differences between corporations and government.  The confusion was started and has spread due to the efforts of Reagan (“gov isn’t the solution, it’s the problem”) and today’s Tea Party ideology.

  • Anonymous

    As student journalists, these students had little to lose since they weren’t beholden to a paymaster.  After they’ve been hired by one of the stations in the report or a likewise station elsewhere, the chilling effect will kick in and they’ll succumb to their employer’s demands.

  • Anonymous

    The law only requires that they keep copies onhand at the premises.  The law does not require that they copy the documents upon request or allow the documents to be photographed.  The law obviously needs strengthening.