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

FAQ (frequently asked questions)

 

Why grade the local news media?
Are your grades subjective?
Which Bay Area newsrooms do you scrutinize? Why?
Where do you get your funding?
What do you hope to learn from this exercise?
Isn't it harsh to give newsrooms grades as low as D-plus?
I've got ideas and opinions about the local news. How can I contribute?
How can students and teachers get involved?
I don't live in the Bay Area. How can I grade the news?
This is exciting. I want to try this kind of project in my hometown!


Why grade the local news media?

Each television news broadcast and newspaper claims to be more local, more current and more in-depth than its competition. But seldom does anyone take the time to compare, story by story, day by day, how well these newsrooms are informing the public.

Are your grades subjective?

Realizing that true objectivity is forever elusive, we work strenuously to avoid injecting our opinions into the grading analyses -- other than the opinion that news should serve the common good. Our 16-page coding manual helps our staff and volunteers uniformly break down stories into broad topics, determine the number and expertise of sources, figure out whether stories are local and measure story time or space accurately. We measure statistical reliability by comparing the level of agreement between two coders' independent evaluations of the same story.

Which Bay Area newsrooms do you scrutinize? Why?

On a regular basis, we evaluate the eight most popular news media in the Bay Area: the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, KTVU Channel 2, KRON Channel 4, KPIX Channel 5, KGO Channel 7 and KNTV Channel 11. If our resources grow, we will include other local news providers. We do include other news media in smaller, more focuses, analyses however. Public television stations, such as KQED and KTEH, are not rated because they do not offer daily local news programs. Radio and alternative papers are areas for future exploration.

Where do you get your funding?

Grade the News is sponsored by grants from the Ford Foundation and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. Previously we have also received funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. We are currently seeking additional sources of funding. If you know organizations or institutions interested in helping, please contact jmcmanus (AT) gradethenews.org.

What do you hope to learn from this exercise?

Ultimately we hope to learn how to create a resource free of corporate control through which a community can assess the quality of the news it depends on -- and then do something about it. We hope to encourage and enable local residents to exercise their voice in a public forum and their power as consumers. If we are successful in the Bay Area, we hope to teach others to create similar projects in other metro areas.

Isn't it harsh to give newsrooms grades as low as D-plus?

Perhaps a little. But what we're grading is how these news organizations do on the basics of journalism, derived from the codes of ethics of journalism. If, in evaluating a story, there's disagreement about a grade, we’ll give the station or newspaper the benefit of the doubt. And we always invite responses from reporters, editors and news directors in the newsrooms themselves. Our goal is to encourage improvement by sharing our grading standards with anyone who asks. We also invite debate on what those standards ought to be.

I've got ideas and opinions about the local news. How can I contribute?

Post a comment to The Coffeehouse, our discussion forum. If you’ve got a news tip, send us an e-mail: jmcmanus (AT) gradethenews.org.

How can students and teachers get involved?

See the Get Involved entry.

I don't live in the Bay Area. How can I grade the news?

Go to the Grade the News Yourself feature on the main page, and grade the news yourself -- or better, with friends. The form is simplified from the one we use, and may be fun to apply to your favorite newspaper or local newscast. Or you can download the entire coding manual to grade with more precision.

This is exciting. I want to try this kind of project in my hometown!

The big idea behind Grade the News is to establish a model for assessment of news quality that can take root in any news market. If you have the time and energy, we’ll help as much as we can.

 

What do you think? Discuss it in The Coffeehouse.

WEEKLY UPDATES

More...
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

Hearst

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 GROWTH OF FREE NEWSPAPERS

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

FATE OF KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

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...

KQED-FM AUDIO PERSPECTIVES BY JOHN MCMANUS

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

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most recent updatesHow the Bay Area's most popular media stack up.Talk about Bay Area journalism in our on-line discussion forum. A printable news scorecard you can use at home or in school. Raves and rants aimed at the local media. What would you do if you were the editor? Upcoming happenings and calls for public action. Let 'em know! Contact a local newsroom.Codes of ethics, local media advocates and journalism tools. Tip us off about the local media, or tell us how we're doing.Oops.A comprehensive list of past GTN exclusives.