Magazine article Editor & Publisher

An 'Excellence' Case

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

An 'Excellence' Case

Article excerpt

A new Project for Excellence in Journalism study demolishes yet another rationale for the media cross-ownership ban

The case for continuing the cross-ownership ban on owning a newspaper and a broadcast station in the same market has always been rooted more in faith than in fact. Indeed, the ban owes its improbably long life to the doctrinaire politicians and "public advocates" who have defended it even as the media world morphed from the rabbit-ears era circa 1975 to the 21st-century array of wired and post-wired choices.

Unfortunately for its Flat Earth devotees, the cross-ownership ban took another intellectual hit last week. The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), a research institute affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, released results of the most massive study of local TV news ever undertaken. Conducted over five years, the study examined more than 23,000 news stories from 172 randomly selected TV stations. A panel of broadcast-news experts rated stories for significance, balance, local interest, and other factors.

It turns out that that the relatively few TV stations allowed to operate under newspaper ownership were more than twice as likely to produce the top-quality "A"-rated newscasts than all other stations, whether owned by independents or big networks. Compared to other stations, newspaper-owned properties "were more likely to do stories that focused on important community issues, more likely to provide a wide mix of opinions, and less likely to do celebrity and human- interest features," the study said. …

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