Bart Richards Award honors PEJ for 'News Coverage Index'

April 02, 2009

University Park, Pa. — A first-of-its-kind "News Coverage Index," which provided content analysis of media coverage during the 2008 election, has earned the 2008 Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism.

The Bart Richards Award, presented annually by the College of Communications at Penn State, recognizes outstanding contributions to print and broadcast journalism through responsible analysis or critical evaluation. The award is intended to recognize constructively critical articles, books and electronic media reports; academic and other research; and reports by media ombudsmen and journalism watchdog groups.

This year's award honors work produced during the 2008 calendar year. It will be presented Thursday, May 21, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The News Coverage Index, produced by Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), provided "real time" content analysis of some 1,300 news stories from 48 different news outlets each week during the election. Overall, the Index allowed PEJ to produce 46 different reports and chart the week-by-week ebb and flow of the campaign.

The Index studies six different network news programs, 15 cable news shows, 13 newspapers, eight radio news programs and six news Web sites. Researchers at PEJ then determine what topics the media is covering or not covering and they produce an initial report just 24 hours after the actual media coverage.

"Over the years, we were daunted by the fact that the news often moved too fase for empirical research to catch up," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of Project for Excellence in Journalism and a three-time winner of the Bart Richards Award. "The Index is the answer we came up with." He believes the work amounts to "the most granular and comprehensive examination of media coverage of any presidential campaign in American history."

The three-person panel of external judges that selected the Index for the Bart Richards Award agreed with that perspective, citing the Index and its comprehensive effort for analysis, criticism and evaluation. External judges were: John Cochran of ABC News; Richard Cole of the University of North Carolina; and Bob Giles of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

"The historic 2008 campaign generated an unprecedented level of media attention," Rosenstiel said. "The data, analyses and reports produced by PEJ last year provided the cleanest and clearest evidence of just how that attention translated for the American voter and news consumer."

PEJ and Rosenstiel won the Bart Richards Award in 2004 for "State of the News Media" and Rosenstiel shared the award with his co-author, Bill Kovach, for the book "The Elements of Journalism" in 2001.

In addition, Rosenstiel won the precursor to the Bart Richards Award, the Lowell Mellett Award, in 1991, when he was a writer for the Los Angeles Times, for articles on the role of media in the overthrow of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, technological and social change in the television industry, and media coverage of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis.

PEJ, a non-partisan and non-political project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, is dedicated to trying to understand the information revolution. It specializes in using empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press, and it strives to help both the journalists who produce the news and the citizens who consume it develop a better understanding of what the press is delivering, how the media are changing and what forces are shaping those changes.

The May 21 award presentation will begin at 6 p.m. with a reception at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. For more information about the reception and award presentation, please call (814) 865-8801 or visit online.

Previous winners of the Bart Richards Award include: PBS “Frontline,” 2007; Byron Calame, public editor of The New York Times, 2006; Sydney Schanberg, a columnist for The Village Voice, 2005; “State of the News Media” by Project for Excellence in Journalism (Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel), 2004; Lori Robertson for articles in American Journalism Review, 2003; Allan Wolper for "Ethics Corner" in Editor & Publisher, 2002; Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel for “The Elements of Journalism,” 2001; and The Media Unit of “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” 2000.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 09, 2009