Last week the Los Angeles Times offered report card like grades for Los Angeles City’s mayor, city attorney, controller, and council president. Grading politicians is not a bad idea and Times publisher Austin Beutner said the newspaper intends to expand the practice to offer grades for county supervisors and state officials. Wouldn’t be a bad idea if some entity grades the press as well.

The attention-getting grade was a C for Mayor Eric Garcetti. The newspaper’s 8-member editorial board came up with the grades. They weighed the leader’s Leadership, Effectiveness, Vision, Transparency, and Political Courage giving each category an individual grade. Garcetti’s overall grade was dragged down by the D he received for Political Courage. The newspaper said, “his inclination to avoid tough or controversial decisions is undermining his ability to address the very serious problems facing the city.”

On Los Angeles Channel 4’s News Conference with Conan Nolan yesterday, Beutner explained that the idea behind the report card is to assess how the politicians are doing as measured against their promises coming into office. The editorial board members laid out the following questions for themselves to help determine the politicians’ strengths and weaknesses.

“Are they keeping their campaign promises? Have they delivered on their rhetoric? Do they tackle the city’s fundamental problems or do they duck controversy in favor of safe or politically popular stances? Are they focused on the monumental problems at hand or on their next elections and their own careers? Do they represent all of Los Angeles, including its diverse communities, and think about the city as a whole?”

City attorney Mike Feuer fared best with the Times editorial board gaining a B+. Controller Ron Galperin received a B- and City Council President Herb Wesson, like Feuer, a former state legislator, received a C+. Like good teachers, the Times writers recommended how each politician could increase their grades.

You can read the rundown on each official here.

Newspapers examining and approving or disapproving politicians is an age-old practice. It happens every election season. Editorials express the strengths and weaknesses of candidates running for office and offer an endorsement. The L.A. Times exercise is interesting in that the newspaper is attempting to use an easy to understand grading system to suggest changes in governing and doing it mid-term instead of election time.

Expanding the practice of grading politicians to other levels of government—and allowing politicians to defend themselves—would be a healthy exercise. Beyond politicians, issuing report cards on government agencies and services would be beneficial.

But, being judges of the public sector should not eliminate newspapers themselves from being graded on the jobs they do in informing the public.

Of course, a newspaper can’t grade itself, fairly. Another entity should perform that service. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the grades politicians give their local newspapers?

And before anyone raises the issue—yes, politically involved blogs should not be spared. Like newspapers, blogs shouldn’t grade themselves. Let’s face it, if I graded this blog I’m sure it would make the Honor Roll.