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Television News Choices

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The July sweeps are coming to a close for local TV stations in Chicago.

That means a temporary end to special programs, special reports and special promotions.

Stations spend millions of dollars each year to ensure their local newscasts are tops in the minds of as many viewers as possible.

But a new study from Northwestern University's Media Management Center and the Medill School of Journalism suggest that most Chicago viewers really can't tell the difference from one station to another.

That's in part because the content of most local newscasts is almost identical.

According to the study, less than half of every newscast is actually devoted to news.

And more than one third of local news coverage consists of stories about crimes, fires and accidents.

The analysis comes as stations here and elsewhere are struggling with declining audiences and growing competition.

And they're not the only ones.

Newspapers and radio stations are also facing some of their biggest audience challenges ever.

In the midst of this mass media metamorphosis, the big question is what will be the impact on local news coverage?

Local news has been taking it on the chin in recent years in the wake of cost cuts and media consolidation.

But some see a silver lining in the current mega media maladies.

Thom Clark is the head of the Community Media Workshop at Columbia College Chicago and he's with us now in studio.

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