L.A. newscasts score low in a national study

Times Staff Writer

If you think local TV newscasts aren’t particularly good, you’re not alone. Los Angeles ranks 16th out of 17 markets examined in a national study released Thursday that looked at 53 television news operations. KCBS-TV produces the highest-scoring 11 p.m. newscast of the three network-owned stations in town, but it and competitors KNBC-TV and KABC-TV, were still ranked as average, with each station receiving the same grade: C

The study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, associated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, called the L.A. market one of the weakest in the U.S.; no local station scored better than a D in enterprise reporting.

KCBS and KABC’s C grades marked an improvement over their scores in last year’s study, when both received Ds. KNBC was awarded a C last year.

Overall, KCBS ranked 43rd of the 53 stations in the survey. KABC ranked 44th and KNBC was ranked 45th. The top-rated station was the 6 p.m. newscast at WHDH, the NBC affiliate in Boston. The lowest ranked newscast was the 10 p.m. news at KMGH in Denver, an ABC affiliate. Overall, the lowest ranked market was Albuquerque.


The report studied the most popular news time slot in each city over two nonconsecutive weeks -- March 4-8 and April 29-May 3, which was during ratings sweeps -- and used criteria developed by a team of veteran news professionals. The criteria included the breadth of a newscast’s coverage, its focus on key issues and ideas, and how closely it reflected the community.

KCBS offered a significant mix of viewpoints in its stories and also was the station most likely to get a comment from one of the main figures in a story, the study said. But only 8% of the station’s stories examined significant issues or public policy, while a “whopping” 26% focused on unusual events. Many stories also quoted unnamed sources or sources mentioned only in passing.

KABC was the least likely of the three stations to broadcast stories aimed at specific demographic groups, according to the study. But the station was deemed to be the most likely to focus on everyday crime. It also aired several national and international stories without providing local context. Further, it was called the station least likely to air stories on social issues.

The survey said KNBC was the station most likely to give local context to national news stories and least likely to use stories from news wires. Its newscasts were also the most likely to get “person-on-the-street” reaction on stories. However, KNBC was also the station least likely to air political and business news, and the most likely to cover stories with an anchor voice-over rather than showing a reporter at the scene.