too much opinion, not enough newsIt used to be that the nightly news was, indeed news. Sure, lots of sound bites, some fluff, and local color, but at least it was reporting.

But according the Pew Research Center’s just released report, The State of the News Media 2013, you’re more likely to be getting opinion than real news–especially if you’re watching MSNBC, where 85% of their “news” coverage is actually opinion. The research was conducted by the Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and analyzed programming in December 2012.

They found that while CNN and Fox News give audiences pretty close to a 50-50 mix of news on opinion, MSNBC isn’t remotely  close to even-handed with 85% of its coverage commentary (usually with a political agenda) and just 15% news. (The exact numbers for CNN were 46% opinion vs. 54% news, and for Fox the reverse, 55% opinion vs. 45% news.)

If you’re a information junkie, you’ll find the Pew report a fascinating read. Here’s an excerpt:

“On cable, the news structure of the three channels—the mix of interviews, packaged segments and live coverage—has changed. After relying on significantly distinct formats five years ago, the three rivals now look strikingly similar.

“At the same time, some of the differences that demarcated daytime cable from prime time have also eroded in the past five years. Traditionally known for its attention to breaking news, daytime cable’s cuts in live event coverage and its growing reliance on interviews suggest it may be moving more toward the talk-oriented evening shows. This transition may cut the costs of having a crew and correspondent provide live event coverage.

“CNN, which has branded itself around reporting resources and reach, cut back between 2007 and 2012 on two areas tied to that brand—in-depth story packages and live event coverage. Even so, CNN is the only one of the three big cable news channels to produce more straight reporting than commentary over all. At the other end of that spectrum lies MSNBC, where opinion fills a full 85% of the channel’s airtime.”