Evaluating print and broadcast news in the San Francisco Bay Area from A to F.

Notable Quotes

When he purchased The Berkshire Eagle in 1995, reporters were given a sheet of paper describing their job status and new salaries. "People were expected to read the paper and put their initials next to the words ‘accept' or ‘reject' on the spot," Stephen Simurda wrote in CJR. "There were virtually no negotiations. This was day one of the Singleton era."

--profile of William Dean Singleton, a bidder for Knight Ridder newspapers, published in Columbia Journalism Review in 2003 .

I am again instructing the copy desk to trim stories. Routine stories need be no longer than 6-8 inches. In-depth stories should be within the 10-12 range.

--Memo from William Nangle, executive editor of The Times of Northwest Indiana, Dec. 9, 2005.

My problem with all of this is less ethical than practical. If it helped build Iraqi democracy or blunted anti-American propaganda, it might even be worth it (though certainly not at those prices). But exporting a bunch of budding Jayson Blairs simply feeds the perception of Americans as inept and hypocritical puppetmasters.

-- Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, Dec. 5, 2005.

The essential role of a free and responsible press must be made a primary concern of the public. Only they can protect and sustain it.

-- Judy Woodruff, formerly of CNN "Inside Politics," speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, June 13, 2005.

The audience, he imagines, would like its news to be more like his entertainment shows: better stories told by attractive personalities in exciting ways.

-- CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves describing changes he is considering in the CBS Evening News, in the New York Times Magazine , Sept. 4, 2005


This is further evidence of how financially driven these companies are. The era of when newspaper companies had an emotional attachment to their properaties has really withered away.

-- Newspaper analyst John Morton commenting on the newspaper swap among Knight Ridder, Gannett and MediaNews in Detroit and elsewhere in the New York Times, Aug. 4, 2005

If newspapers can report changes in the stock market for the investor, they can keep track of changing wages and benefits for workers.

-- Herbert J. Gans, Democracy and the News, Oxford University Prress, 2003 (Posted June 30, 2005)

The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense.

-- Frank Rich, New York Times, June 26, 2005 (Posted June 27, 2005)

Skepticism is to journalists what faith is to the clergy.

-- Richard Cohen, Washington Post, May 20, 2005 (Posted June 3, 2005)

A free press is one where it's OK to state the conclusion you're led to by the evidence.

-- Bill Moyers speaking to the National Conference on Media Reform in St . Louis, May 15, 2005.

At Knight Ridder, three major papers that posted modest gains in circulation in the spring of 2004 as compared with the spring of 2002 -- The San Jose Mercury News, The Miami Herald and The Philadelphia Inquirer -- would have registered sizable losses without the use of third-party sponsorship.

-- "Your Daily Paper, Courtesy of a Sponsor," The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2005.

Contrary to many assessments, young people do not consult Internet news more often than other sources, Gallup found. For those 18 to 29, only 21% said they looked at Web news daily, not much different than the 19% of those 50 to 64 who do so. In that younger age group, local TV news was most popular, at 33% daily usage, with local newspapers just off the pace, at 32%. Both far outdistanced the Net, even among youth.

-- Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher, Dec. 21, 2004. (Posted Dec. 21, 2004.)

Here's how overwhelming media coverage betrayed our culture. It reduced a family tragedy to a national pastime, a sporting event complete with "fans" cheering Peterson's conviction last month outside the courtroom.

-- Renée Graham, Boston Globe, Dec. 14, 2004. (Posted Dec. 15, 2004.)

If you are not in awe of what you don't know, you shouldn't be a journalist.

-- Sandy Close, executive director, New California Media, in a talk with Stanford University journalism masters students, Dec. 1, 2004. (Posted Dec. 1, 2004.)

So far, we've been lucky at Knight Ridder in escaping death or serious injury. Our American and Iraqi correspondents have been shot at countless times, attacked by knife-wielding rebels and bruised by stones lobbed from angry mobs. They've been trampled by rioting demonstrators, arrested by a renegade police force, taken hostage by militiamen and burned by red-hot shrapnel.

-- Knight-Ridder Baghdad reporter Hannah Allam in The San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 21, 2004. (Posted Nov. 22, 2004.)

But if ever there was a story that divided the media into two camps, it's the Peterson case, which is expected to go to the jury this week after a trial now in its 23rd week. 'Serious' news organizations generally stayed away from the story.

-- in The Washington Post, Nov. 2, 2004. (Posted Nov. 2, 2004.)

The problem is that anyone with Web access can run any cockamamie story up the flagpole -- and if enough people salute, prompt the mainstream press to deploy its resources.

-- William Raspberry, op-ed column in The Washington Post, Oct. 25, 2004. (Posted Oct. 26, 2004.)

As Justice Potter Stewart put it, the primary purpose of the constitutional guarantee of a free press was 'to create a fourth institution outside the government as an additional check on the three official branches.

-- Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., chairman and publisher, and Russell T. Lewis, chief executive, The New York Times, quoted in The New York Times, Oct. 10, 2004. (Posted Oct. 11, 2004.)

Deliberative democracy basically doesn't work. People don't want to spend their time deliberating.

-- Morris Fiorina, professor of political science at Stanford University, quoted in The Stanford Report , Sept. 29, 2004. (Posted Sept. 30, 2004.)


CBS' admission of error on the Bush National Guard memo story after Web logs started debunking it was a landmark moment for the balance between the blogosphere and mainstream media.

-- Orville Schell, dean of the school of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, quoted by Reuters, Sept. 20, 2004. (Posted Sept. 22, 2004.)


Where is the integrity of the writer if his articles are not aimed at educating the public but to poison the minds of the readers with all sorts of allegations? ... Where is the responsibility of the writer if the media is used for him to vent his anger or vengeance?

-- Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of Malaysia, speaking on the tendency of local media to sensationalize sex and crime stories (Posted Aug. 31, 2004)


Every minute spent by Larry King or Fox News on Lori Hacking or Laci Peterson is a minute they don't spend on health care, education, environmental quality, national security, the economy or other real issues that should be the center of public attention, especially in an election year. A nation full of people who know more about Scott Peterson's defense strategy than they do about Donald Rumsfeld's is not a nation that shows much ability to govern itself.

-- Editorial from the Salt Lake Tribune on Aug. 5, telling outside media not to make national news of a local tragedy (Posted Aug. 12, 2004)


I read the other day that many Americans likely saw more prime-time entertainment on a single night than they saw election coverage during an entire campaign! We need America's broadcasters to step up to the plate and correct this deplorable mess.

-- FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, quoted in a Free Press News (Posted July 20, 2004)


Although journalism is important...at the end of the day, investors care more about the number of newspapers you sell and the ad rate increases you get, rather than the number of Pulitzer Prizes. Look at USA Today; how many Pulitzers have they won? ...But they sell a lot of advertising and get good rate increases.

-- John Janedis, newspaper industry analyst, quoted in a New York Times story on cutbacks at the Los Angeles Times, immediately following its win of five Pulitzer Prizes, June 14, 2004 (Posted June 15, 2004)


In The Times's W.M.D. coverage, readers encountered some rather breathless stories built on unsubstantiated 'revelations' that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests.

-- New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent, in a note to readers, May 30, 2004 (Posted June 1, 2004)

The secrecy today is so thick as to be all but inpenetrable except to the most indefategable digger helped along by an occasional breakthrough of sheer luck. In earlier times there were padlocks for the presses and jail cells for outspoken editors ... Now the classifyer's top-secret stamp, used indiscriminately, is as potent a silencer as a writ of arrest.

-- Bill Moyers, in the keynote address of The Newspaper Guild's annual Freedom Award, May 19, 2004 (Posted May 21, 2004)


I believe three things sell newspapers -- names, faces and controversy.

-- John Foley, leader of the new Contra Costa Examiner, quoted by Chronicle reporter Dan Fost The San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 2004 (Posted May 4, 2004)


I know many journalists who would like to comment on the deep structure of their profession and its suck-up to advertisers, not to mention the dominant social order. But their editors won't let them.

-- Richard Goldstein, The Village Voice, April 27, 2004 (Posted April 27, 2004)


The blurring of the line between news and entertainment programing on the major broadcast networks is a counterproductive trend that is alienating loyal news viewers while failing to attract coveted younger demographics.

-- The Hollywood Reporter, paraphrasing ABC News anchor Ted Koppel, who spoke Tuesday to the Hollywood Radio & Television Society at the Beverly Hilton. (Posted April 22, 2004)


There is too much celebrity journalism. But you have to realize that we feed an appetite -- we live in a celebrity culture and so things like 'Entertainment Tonight' make money. I think it's unfortunate when you see things like 'The Today Show' or Oprah, and they say it's journalism. It's not journalism.

-- Juan Williams, NPR News, quoted in The Penn Online. (Posted April 21, 2004)


Besides, immediacy is more important than accuracy, and humor is more important than accuracy.

-- Nick Denton, publisher of Wonkette, a Web-based Washington DC gossip column (Posted April 19, 2004)


The industry has come a long way since the effect of profit pressures on journalism quality was a topic blithely waved away -- or nervously quashed. That American journalism is imperiled by short-term business practices in ways that threaten the health of our society is now a commonly discussed concern.

-- Geneva Overholser, former newspaper editor, and professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, in "Profit Pressures Over Time," for the Poynter Institute. (Posted April 16, 2004)


Interesting sometimes has to give way to important, and we are the gatekeepers who have to make critical decisions about what's important.

-- Jim Sanders, vice president for news, KNTV Channel 11, talking about campaign coverage (Posted March 26, 2004)


Newspapers today have about 2,200 fewer full-time professional newsroom employees than they did in 1990. In local televison ... fully 59 percent of news directors reported either budget cuts or staff cuts in 2002.

-- Project for Excellence in Journalism, The State of the News Media 2004. Posted March 23, 2004


I don't know a time in our lives when heroes of freedom of information were more needed than they are now.

-- Daniel Ellsberg, source of the leaked "Pentagon Papers," upon receiving a careerachievement award from the Freedom of Information Committee of the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, San Francisco, March 16, 2004. (Posted March 17, 2004).


There is a blurring between information and news, and entertainment. And I think that people who are growing up now are having a hard time distinguishing between those two.

-- Linda Foley, president of The Newspaper Guild, interviewed by Robert McChesney on Media Matters on WILL-AM, Urbana-Champagne, Feb, 8, 2004 (Posted March 3, 2004).


... the TV commercial has changed American politics.

-- Bill Moyers, NOW, Feb. 6, 2004 (Posted Feb. 11, 2004.)


Yes, it is in the public interest to protect journalists from being required to name their sources in the courtroom. But it is also in the public interest for journalists to speak out against ethical lapses in their craft.

-- New York Times op-ed writer Geneva Overholser criticizing columnist Robert Novak, Feb. 6, 2004 (Posted Feb. 6, 2004.)


... I've been a journalist for 40 years, 35 of them with the Times -- and I'm aware of not just the blatant betrayals of the public interest by the likes of Blair and Glass but the more systemic, more damaging betrayals represented by what I've come to think of as the four horsemen of the journalistic apocalypse: superficiality, sensationalism, preoccupation with celebrity, and obsession with the bottom line.

-- Los Angeles Times' David Shaw in his Media Matters column on Dec. 14, 2003 (Posted Feb. 4, 2004.)


This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.

-- the late Edward R. Murrow speaking of television in an address to the Radio and Television News Directors Association in Chicago, Oct. 15, 1958 (Posted Feb. 3, 2004.)


They may play out like a lot of things that exploded on the Internet and were going to change everything ... On the other hand, the sophisticated answer is that they're an interesting addition to the public discourse and a welcome check on journalism.

-- Paul Grabowicz, professor at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, on the importance of blogs. (Posted Jan. 27, 2004.)


One ignores viewers or reader interests at your own peril ... We risk trivializing ourselves and marginalizing ourselves.

-- Dan Rosenheim, news director of KPIX-TV in San Francisco, explaining to a University of Southern California panel organized by the Poynter Institute that a person's celebrity status should be one of the factors in determining news value. (Posted Jan. 22, 2004.)


... tourism officials are seeing nothing but dollar signs in the media frenzy expected to follow Mr. Peterson from Stanislaus County, in what has already been among the most publicized murder cases in the country since O.J. Simpson was acquitted more than eight years ago.
'I'm not saying it is the same as us getting the Olympics or something, but some of these trials go on three or four months,' said Daniel N. Fenton, president and chief executive of the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, a major promoter of Santa Clara County.

-- Dean E. Murphy, reporting in The New York Times, Jan. 19, 2004 (Posted Jan. 19, 2004)


As Philip Weiss, a columnist for the weekly New York Observer, notes in an essay in 'Into the Buzzsaw,' the Washington Post ran with the Watergate story despite vehement criticism from the political establishment and 'a sharp drop in its stock price when it took on [President Richard] Nixon.'

'Would any publication display such sang-froid today?' Weiss writes. 'I think it's extremely doubtful.' It is instead on the Internet and in the 'fringe press,' he asserts, that wide-open debate today takes place.

-- Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 11, 2004 (Posted Jan. 12, 2004)

For Knight Ridder, business success at the expense of first-rate journalism and/or the highest ethical standards would be hollow.

-- Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder in a year-end letter to the chain's journalists. Knight Ridder owns both the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. (Posted Jan. 2, 2004)

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A project of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University, Grade the News is affiliated with the Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford University and KTEH, public television in Silicon Valley.

Monitoring the Bay Area's most popular news media:

Contra Costa Times

Knight Ridder

San Francisco Chronicle


San Jose Mercury News

Knight Ridder

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KRON, San Francisco

KRON, San Francisco

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)


Bay Area media advocates:

Media Alliance
Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at SFSU
Maynard Institute
Youth Media Council
Project Censored
New California Media
Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter
National Writers Union Bay Area chapter

Site highlights


The three-part series follows the rise of three Bay Area handouts:
• Part 1: At free dailies, advertisers sometimes call the shots
• Part 2: Free daily papers: more local but often superficial
• Part 3: Free papers' growth threatens traditional news
• See also: SF Examiner and Independent agree to end payola restaurant reviews
• And: The free tabloid that wasn't: East Bay's aborted Daily Flash


Lou Alexander started a firestorm with his original guest commentary predicting the company would be sold. Several other experts on newspapers have weighed in:
Newspapers can't cut their way back into Wall Street investors' hearts, by Stephen R. Lacy; Alexander responds
Humbler profits won't encourage buyouts, by John Morton; Alexander responds
Newspapers can't maintain monopoly profits because they've lost their monopolies, by Philip Meyer
Knight Ridder in grave jeopardy, by Lou Alexander...


Leakers and plumbers: There's no difference between a good leak and a bad leak? Journalists need a shield law. 11/22/05
Unintended consequences: How Craigslist and similar services are sucking revenue from faltering newspapers. 9/13/05
Is CPB irrelevant? As Congress moves to cut public broadcasting funds, has CPB become obsolete in the modern marketplace. 6/26/05
The paradox of news: There's more news available and its cheaper than ever before, but fewer young people are interested. 5/12/05


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