Early review of campaign coverage

Req: A, E, N, S

Democrats are getting more coverage and more favorable coverage in the 2008 election, according to a recent study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

But before you get too excited about “liberal media bias,” take note that the study indicated that extra coverage was largely due to the fact that Democratic candidates announced a month earlier than Republicans.

The study further traced the disparity in tone to overwhelmingly positive coverage for Barack Obama and overwhelmingly negative coverage for John McCain. In both cases, the coverage was tied to at least in some part to their fund raising or lack thereof.

More disturbing than Republican/Democratic differences was the continued tendency of the press to focus on political and tactical aspects of the campaign, including the so-called “horse race,” rather than topics that the public overwhelmingly wants covered, like the candidates’ positions on various issues.

The study showed that the media also virtually ignored the candidates’ record on issues, as well as their past performance in office. Only 1 percent of the the campaign coverage addressed these subjects.

Just 12% of stories examined were presented in a way that explained how citizens might be affected by the election, while nearly nine-out-of-ten stories (86%) focused on matters that largely impacted only the parties and the candidates.

[Continue reading Invisible Primary]

In other words, journalists have thus far covered the campaign for themselves and the two major political parties rather than for their readers. That says more about the state of journalism today than any other study I’ve seen recently.

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This blog is maintained by Dr. Matthew M. Reavy as a service to journalism students at the University of Scranton.

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