The disclosure of classified documents revealing the breadth of the National Security Agency has garnered a great deal of attention from people of varying political persuasions and interest levels. And while I’m interested in what that means for journalism – a profession already targeted for surveillance, as we’ve learned through this past month of scandal – for now I’ve created this Storify to recap the major developments and must-read articles (it may be updated as needed):
Click the screenshot for the rest of the story.
* It was during this process that I realized the inability of my site to embed Storify posts. Quite a shame. If you’re a tech guru that knows a workaround that won’t look horrible (like Storify’s built-in exporter), let me know in the comments.
Partisan news websites tend to attract similarly partisan audiences, according to a report released today by comScore (as reported by Poynter). Selective exposure is nothing new. However, one website in the study aims for the middle of the ideological continuum and hits it, with great traffic to boot.
The audience sample for Politico in February was 29% Democrat, 29% Republican, and 42% independent. The share of minutes spent on the site overwhelmingly belonged to independents (66%), while Democrats and Republicans again were evenly split (17% each).
The other sites in the study – a selection of left and right-leaning sources – failed to match Politico’s balance, and in most cases, its traffic.
The ones that did attract more visitors were two ideologically opposed news aggregators – The Huffington Post (the study measured only it’s Politics page) and Drudge Report – sites with a long lineage of selective linking to other people’s work. HuffPo produces at least some original content (they even nabbed a Pulitzer last month), but the vast majority of their work remains rewrites and reposts. Even moreso for Drudge.
The study is interesting because claiming the middle has recently been viewed as a losing fight. As American politics continue through a phase of increased division, partisan news organizations have seen the gains, while traditional institutions have seen audience share wilt away. When Fox News and its conservative slant captured a mammoth market share, MSNBC responded by acting as a liberal counterweight. CNN, on the other hand, determined that more success would be found in presenting a balanced look at the day’s events. CNN was dead wrong, and has gone from a close second to a distant third.
So it’s nice to see Politico performing well, particularly in the partisan pig slop that is the Internet. Perhaps it is a small sign that the tide is turning back to a desire for information over self-satisfying infotainment.
The Fourth Estate improved in its role as informer and vetter in the 2012 Republican primary, but it continued to bog itself down in political minutia and reflection of public sentiment, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The study found that 64% of primary coverage was devoted to what the researchers deemed “strategy,” a term inclusive of public opinion polls, momentum, advertising, and fundraising – the so-called “horserace” aspect of an election. The remaining coverage was split among the candidates’ personal background (12%), position on domestic issues (9%), existing public record (6%), position on foreign issues (1%), and other uncategorized topics (6%).
It may seem a disservice that so little of the newshole was devoted to informing the electorate about the candidates, but the PEJ was quick to point out what an improvement it was over 2008. The 28% of “vetting” coverage was roughly double the amount candidates received in the 2008 Republican (11%) and Democratic (15%) primaries.
The variations of these primaries is worth considering. The 2008 Republican primary was much different than 2012. John McCain cemented his nomination on Super Tuesday, though one could argue it came even sooner than that. Every legitimate candidate but one (Mike Huckabee) had dropped out by early February. Meanwhile, the 2008 Democratic primary carried on even longer than this year’s GOP battle – a two-person contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that led most of us to learn for the first time what “superdelegates” were. The validity of coverage comparisons between the two primary years might indeed be acceptable then, considering the 2012 Republican primary would fit snugly between the two extremes of 2008.
The Pew study argued that while the 2012 battle may have lasted until mid-April, media coverage established the endpoint on February 29 – a day, ironically enough, that only occurs in an American presidential election year. Or, more relevantly, the day after Mitt Romney won Arizona and his native state of Michigan – a must-win for his blue-collar challenger, Rick Santorum.