TVNewsCheck News Directors Survey

More So-So Report Cards For National News

In the second TVNewsCheck survey, a cross-section of news directors at TV stations around the country were asked to grade ABC News, CBS News, CNN, FNC, NBC News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera America and PBS NewsHour on "overall journalistic quality." Once again, none received an A, four earned Bs, there was one C and three Ds. The findings also indicate a correlation between those grades and how the NDs perceive the organizations’ objectivity.

Local TV news directors are giving broadcast news organizations higher marks than their cable counterparts — but they don’t believe the work of any national TV news outlet is worthy of an A.

In the latest TVNewsCheck News Directors Survey, conducted around Thanksgiving, the 123 respondents gave CBS News the highest grade point average — a 3.16 on a four-point scale, otherwise known as a B. 

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CBS’s above average — but not excellent — score marked the second time local news directors did not dole out a single A to a national news operation, either broadcast or cable.

How would you grade the following national TV news organizations on overall journalistic quality on a four-point grade scale?

2013 2011
CBS News 3.16 3.08
NBC News 3.05 3.18
PBS NewsHour 3.01 N/A
ABC News 2.88 3.03
CNN 2.63 2.78
Al Jazeera America 1.97 N/A
MSNBC 1.74 1.92
Fox News Channel 1.73 1.69

In the first TVNewsCheck News Directors Survey, conducted in 2011, news directors gave NBC News the highest mark, a 3.18, also considered a B. This year, NBC News’ grade fell to a 3.05, but was still good enough to maintain its above-average status. CBS News earned a B level 3.08 grade for second place in 2011.

Brand Connections

PBS NewsHour, which in the most recent survey news director gave the third-highest grade for quality, also earned a B with a 3.01. The public television newscast was not included in the 2011 survey.

Grades for the national news operations’ journalistic quality start to tank from there. The news directors gave fourth-ranking ABC News a B-, or 2.88, down from the 3.03 they gave the network in 2011.

They gave CNN a C+, or 2.63, down from the B- or 2.78 in the previous survey.  Al Jazeera America, new to the arena, got a D or 1.97. And for the second time, news directors also gave Ds to MSNBC, whose 1.74 dipped from its 2011 mark of 1.92, and Fox News Channel, whose 1.73 grade was a slight uptick from its previous 1.69.

The survey also showed a correlation between grades and how news directors' perceive the organizations' objectivity.

Respondents rated CBS News, the highest graded outlet, the most objective of the eight news outlets considered in the survey. Nearly half of the news directors, 47.4%, say they don’t see any bias in the CBS newscasts.

MSNBC and Fox News Channel, which received Ds, are seen as the most partial.

Just 3.5% of respondents see no bias in Fox News Channel, versus 92% who see the organization as "somewhat" or "very conservative." No one deems MSNBC unbiased, and 88.3% see it tilting to the left.

Slightly more than 41% of news directors say they see no bias in ABC News, 38.1% see no bias in PBS News Hour broadcasts and 34.2% report no bias in NBC News or CNN reporting.

With the exception of Fox News, the major TV organizations tend to lean left to one degree or another, according to the news directors.

How would you assess the bias of the following national news organizations?














ABC News 0.0% .3% 41.2% 41.2% 7.9% 9.6%
CBS News 0.0% 4.4% 47.4% 35.1% 6.1% 7.0%
CNN 0.0% 0.9% 34.2% 45.6% 13.2% 6.1%
Fox News Channel 75.2% 16.8% 3.5% 1.8% 0.0% 2.7%
NBC News 0.9% 2.7% 34.2% 45.0% 9.0% 8.1%
MSNBC 2.7% 0.9% 0.0% 16.2% 72.1% 8.1%
PBS NewsHour 0.9% 3.5% 38.1% 35.4% 8.8% 13.3%

That finding tends to confirm the charge that many conservatives, particularly on Fox News, have made over the years, says Bill Wheatley, a Columbia University journalism professor, who was shown the results of the survey.

“On the other hand, 92% of those news directors also believe that Fox is 'very conservative’ or ‘somewhat conservative,’ undermining Fox's claim that it is ‘fair and balanced’, ” he says.

Seth Geiger, whose media research and consultancy SmithGeiger works with local TV news operations around the country, says he’s not surprised to see survey results that show quality and objectivity going hand-in-hand.

“There is a clear orientation among news directors that they want factual, journalistically unbiased reporting,” Geiger says.

Also of note, according to Geiger, is that the grades have a largely inverted relationship to the actual viewer ratings they receive. Fox News Channel, for example, out-rates CNN. CBS News trails its network competitors, he says.

Mary Beth Marks, VP of research at the media consultancy Crawford Johnson & Northcott, says familiarity could be a factor in how well the national news organizations rank.”

“Those with the longer history on the air also got the higher ratings, versus the relative newcomers,” she says. “There could be some perceptions of familiarity or history or experience with the organizations that led to some of the conclusions.”

Comments (14) -

Ron Stitt Nickname posted over 3 years ago
People should respond n/a if they're not informed. Fox News is conservative, no doubt...but it has 10x more news than MSNBC, including some really solid reportage by the likes of Bret Baier and Shepherd Smith. Even their opinion shows always have the liberal perspective represented at least, while MSNBC shows almost never do. So for FNC to score lower than MSNBC (although it's practically a tie) is really not plausible, and reveals either ignorance, or bias amongst the respondents.
jdshaw Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Oh the irony. Local TV news directors grading national news on "journalistic quality".
Ron Stitt Nickname posted over 3 years ago
I meant MSNBC opinion shows almost never have a conservative perspective represented...guests/panelists are always in violent agreement on every point. It's pretty boring, frankly.
BennyJets Nickname posted over 3 years ago
OMG, can ya get more liberal bias? It's a sad state we're in when the inmates get to assess the asylum! Let the ratings speak for themselves!
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
You mean like PBS Newshour, with a B rating losing 48% of its audience over the past 8 years?
Oh Puhleeze posted over 3 years ago
It appears on the surface the majority of respondents, NEWS DIRECTORS, lean to the left. Naturally there is a built-in bias against FNC from those folks. The survey also shows that nearly all respondents agree - the majority of news is slanted to "somewhat liberal" and "very liberal" biases. I couldn't find in this article any reason WHY the respondents say the news tilts more left more often. And yet those same folks will all most always say there is no bias in the newscasts they, themselves "direct". In my opinion, that contradiction is a good reason why viewers are tuning out or finding alternative new sources. So I'm curious if anyone here knows why the news directors contradict themselves.
james chladek posted over 3 years ago
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
As normal, JC posting comments that have absolutely nothing to do with the story he is commenting on.
Ron Stitt Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Hard to miss the McDonald's was everywhere. What was wrong with it?
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Nothing was wrong with it, if one read the story, which JC clearly did not. The person lost weight by following strict calorie intact guidelines like egg whites for breakfast and salads for lunch.
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
On top of everything, ABC averages about 1 major flub (usually technical error) per newscast and they are too lazy to correct for the West Coast Feed. So ND considering them the top when they do not have the pride to correct their mistakes? lol.
Thomas Scanlan posted over 3 years ago
Nice to see CBS where it is. No surprises here. Agree with the ND's assessments.
Doubtful Nickname posted over 3 years ago
A little scary that 1.8% of the respondents think that FNC is "somewhat liberal."
Insider Nickname posted over 3 years ago
How is that scarier than 2x 1.8% (3.6%) think MSNBC is Conservative?
Marketshare Blog Playout Blog




Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
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Source: Nielsen


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