Journalists Poorly Prepared To Cover Government p.15

By: Editorial Staff JOURNALISTS ARE POORLY prepared to cover the changing role of government, according to a national study of the American press to be presented at next week's American Society of Newspaper Editors annual convention in Washington.
The study is sponsored by Hearst Newspapers, American Opinion Research and the Foundation for American Communications.
A total of 780 newspaper executives, including editors from all 50 states, responded to the survey.
Editors and publishers gave their reporters a "mediocre" rating in their preparedness to cover issues such as education, welfare reform, law enforcement, finance and homelessness, the survey showed.
Most newspaper executives said their newspaper, in general, is doing a good job covering the transfer of responsibilities from federal to state and local governments. But the rating dropped when survey participants were asked to rate their own paper's coverage of particular subjects.
"On most of the specific issues, the average rating given was about 6.5 out of a possible 10," said Tony Casale, AOR president. "We conduct many similar ratings for other industries and they would consider these averages very mediocre."
Only 10% of the survey participants believe reporters are "very well prepared" to cover changes in aid to families with dependent children. The newspaper executives rated journalists' similar preparedness to cover other issues as the following: county/municipal budgets, 42%; education reform, 22%; financing community colleges, 17%; homelessness, 14%; and law enforcement, 13%.
"Newspapers clearly must take steps to improve their coverage of the redefining of government in America, the greatest shift in government responsibilities since the New Deal," said Jack Cox, president of FACS. "Action should be taken by newspapers on all levels, particularly local papers, to improve the depth and quality of their coverage. These stories are at the heart of local news."
April 5, 1997 n Editor & Publisher #


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