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

Posted September 22, 2003

Measuring Local Relevance

Proximity is a core news value. Generally, the nearer some event or issue strikes to home, the more impact it has on our lives.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan constitute obvious exceptions; our soldiers and tax dollars are on the line. What happens around the world can affect us very directly, as we learned so tragically on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Bay Area’s large immigrant population also makes news from abroad more important than it might be in the American heartland.

The value of proximity is also diminished by the global economy. Corporations are shifting jobs and investment dollars across national borders with powerful effects on employment and standards of living.

So this year, we reduced our expectations for how much of the news disseminated by local news departments ought to be about the 11-county Bay Area or directly related to it through localization of a story from elsewhere, such as a new provision passed by the Legislature in Sacramento.

Two local television stations, KRON Channel 4 and KTVU Channel 2, as well as the newspapers have no network broadcasts on which they can depend to provide national and international news. By contrast, KGO Channel 7 can rely on ABC’s Peter Jennings, KPIX Channel 5 can rely on Dan Rather, and KNTV Channel 11 can expect Tom Brokaw to deliver news from the wider world adjacent to their early evening newscasts.

Even for stations with network news, we increased allowances non-local content from our 2000 survey, not just because of the war, but because this year we sampled early and late newscasts. Producers of 11 p.m. newscasts cannot assume viewers saw a network newscast hours earlier. It’s also true that not everyone is home to see network newscasts, because most local stations schedule them before 6:30 p.m.

So we created two standards, one for the newspapers and stations without a network program to provide national and international news, and one for those with such newscasts.

Without network newscast
• 65% or more Bay Area or related earns an A; 60-64% earns a B+; 55-59% earns a B, etc.

With network newscast
•75% or more earns an A; 70-74% earns a B+; 65-69% earns a B, etc.

Local Relevance Index

* The Times includes a zoned local news supplement in its editions; our analysis considered only the "Local/Bay Area" display page.

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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

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

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