Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Project for Excellence in Journalism?
The Project for Excellence in Journalism is a research organization dedicated to tying to understand the performance of the news media and the revolution transforming information. It specializes in using empirical methods, particularly content analysis. It is non partisan, non ideological and non political and does not engage in advocacy. Begun in 1997, PEJ was affiliated for nine years with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In July 2006, PEJ began to expand its research activities substantially and became part of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Since its inception, PEJ has been underwritten by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
What does PEJ do?
The Project conducts research about journalism in the hope that a better understanding of what the news media is providing to citizens will help journalists do a better job and help citizens better understand what to expect and how to demand what they need. Since its inception in 1997 the Project has produced scores of reports on press performance. These include the largest study of local TV news ever produced, major studies of topics in the news, and in 2004, the Project began producing its annual reports on the State of the American News Media. Its five-year local TV research, parts of which were published by the Columbia Journalism Review, will culminate in the publication of the book, “We Interrupt This Newscast: How to Improve Local TV News and Win Ratings, Too” in early 2007. Among PEJ’s continuing series of content studies on press performance, three such studies, on the Clinton Lewinsky scandal in 1998 and 1999, led to the writing of the book, “Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media.” PEJ also funded The State of the American Newspaper project, a series of magazine articles on the profession edited by Gene Roberts and Tom Kunkel.
For the first nine years of its existence, the Project also administered the Committee of Concerned Journalists is a consortium of reporters, editors, producers, publishers, owners and academics from across media worried about the future of the profession.
Who funds PEJ?
The Project receives its funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Does PEJ have a political orientation?
No. Unlike some organizations that purport to study the press, PEJ is neither liberal nor conservative in its orientation. Nor does it begin with a presumption that any other particular issue drive press performance, such as public corporate ownership or advertising. Instead, the Project strives as hard as it can to study the press with an open mind, and an empirical orientation, with, if anything, the supposition that various pressures, issues and tendencies may govern or influence press performance in different ways at different times. Sometimes our findings have infuriated the political left and cheered the right, at other times, the opposite, and often they have supported the presumptions of neither. At times, our findings have found fault with old media and cheered the new. Other findings have gone the other way. At a time of transformational change in the news media, our aim is to have the facts illuminate the way.
How do I receive email if I want to be alerted about PEJ research?
You can sign up for our email alerts by signing up for our email alert on our home page. If you want RSS, feeds are also available on our home page.
What books has your organization produced?
Since our inception in 1996, our work, alone and that with our former sister organization the Committee of Concerned Journalists, has spawned several books. "Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media" by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (Century Foundation: 1999), built on research into the Clinton Lewinsky scandal to identify the five characteristics of the new press culture. "The Elements of Journalism: What News People Should Know and the Public Should Expect" (Crown: 2001) identifies the core principles and the underlying theory of American journalism. "Thinking Clearly" (Columbia University Press: 2003) is a textbook of nine case studies in journalism. “We Interrupt This Newscast: How to Improve Local News and Improve Ratings, Too,” summarizes and builds on what was learned from the Local TV Project.
What content studies have you done?
PEJ conducts several research studies each year. Some are opportunistic studies that are either done in house or with outside researchers. These studies tend to be related to how the media is covering current events. In 2005, we conducted four such studies: a comparison of the new free-tabloid newspapers with the more traditional broadsheets, a comprehensive look at the coverage of hurricane Katrina, a snapshot study of newspaper sports pages and a study of the gap in male and female sources in the news.
In addition to these kinds of research reports, PEJ publishes the State of the News Media, an annual report on American Journalism.
All of our reports and commentaries are listed on the Analysis section of our site. And each specific piece of data we have produced or aggregated over the years is listed, searchable and customizable in the Numbers section of our site.
What is the local television news project?
The local television news project was a PEJ initiative designed to answer with empirical research what viewers want from local TV news. Does quality sell? Do viewers prefer crime or fast moving video? Is local TV news really the same everywhere? Are their benchmark quality stations that are succeeding in the marketplace?
The study examined roughly 20 different markets a year, over five years, to answer these questions. We believe it represents the largest study ever of local television news, and the biggest body of data on the industry.
As it has proceeded, the study obliterated many of the myths of conventional local television news programming, showing that lack of skill, or extraordinary demands for profit and efficiency, have had far more to do up until now with what we see on local TV news than audience demand.
Using empirical criteria developed by a design team of industry practitioners, the local TV project analyzed newscasts from throughout the country in order to find specific practices that can be recommended to television newsrooms interested in providing substantive news in a way that attracts viewers. In addition, the local TV project uses a combination of content analysis and market research to answer the question "Does quality sell?" and to identify model stations who are commercially successful in addition to producing high-quality journalism.
How can I suggest issues or areas for your group to study or get involved with your organization?
The best way to share your ideas with PEJ is to e-mail email@example.com.
What should I do if I find an error, broken link, or missing page on the site?
Let us know about it by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include as much information as possible so we can correct the problem quickly.
Do you provide grants to journalists?
No. The Project is a grantee, not a grantor. We have received funding, and we sometimes hire journalists and researchers for specific projects, but we do not have resources set aside for people looking for funding.