News Hits salivated last week when we received a Project for Excellence in Journalism report that levies mediocre grades on two local television newscasts. The study, conducted by a group affiliated with the Columbia School of Journalism, assigned a “C” to WDIV’s 11 p.m. newscast and a “D” to WXYZ’s show in the same time slot. The study considered such factors as number of sources used, expertise and “local relevance.”

By and large, News Hits hates local TV news anyway, so the chance to report Detroit ranked 10th overall out of the 14 markets studied (for some unexplained reason Fox 2 wasn’t included) had us feeling pretty damn swell.

Unfortunately, in a misguided attempt to appear balanced, we talked to WXYZ news director Bill Carey.

Big mistake. Carey actually convinced us the report wasn’t all that big a deal. Not that the lowly “D” didn’t smart a little. But you have to take hits like this in stride, just like you don’t let something like winning the most local news Emmys this past year swell your head too much.

“The people who prepare this report have a predesigned idea of the message they want to send to stations,” contends Carey. “They have a definition of what quality local news is, and believe that their definition is the only one that’s relevant.”

And while there are points to be considered, Carey figures the ultimate grade comes from viewers in the form of ratings, and from that perspective, his team has been on the winning end lately.

Although he doesn’t actually come out and say it, News Hits had the feeling that the message from Carey was, “Screw the report card. I know what makes quality news, and I’m gonna run my newsroom in the way I think best serves our viewers.”

Which is an attitude News Hits can identify with. In fact, it’s so cool, we’re almost tempted to start watching Channel 7 to see what they’re doing over there. Almost.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail

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