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

Posted November 19, 2003

Getting the red out
Former news director challenges stations to lead with something other than crime

Guest commentary by Alan Goldstein

Challenge guidelines/rules:

1. Pick the least critical month for ratings. Your choice.

2. Do not lead any newscast with episodic crime story. (For bonus points: no episodic crime stories in first block. not group crime stories together. (The first crime story may have some merit; the following ones are usually routine police blotter types. But in a practice that began in 10 AC (After Consultants), producers were trained to couple like topics, since consultants felt it provided a certain viewing comfort to the audience. Ironically, over time, this practice has had the opposite effect, feeding the public's anxiety that crime is more prevalent than it actually is.)

4. Do not, until further notice, use the following words: Bombshell. Bizarre. Shocking. Dramatic. Stunning.

5. Replace the episodic crime lead with the most important local story of the day. (The one you think the community you serve really needs to know about, not just what you think they want to see.)

6. Assign your most journalistically skilled reporters to these stories.

7. Follow overnight ratings closely. If ratings do not drop, rub your chin, say "hmmm, there may be something to this." If ratings do drop, I give up.

8. But, if ratings do not drop, try extending this challenge beyond one month.

The challenge winner will receive nothing more than the warm satisfaction of knowing they have have served the public well.

What do you think?

Alan S. Goldstein is a veteran of both network and local television news. He was news director at KRON and associate news director at KPIX. He is also a former member of the Grade the News Advisory Board.



What do you think? Discuss it in The Coffeehouse.


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


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.