[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?

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.

Continue reading “[Clickworthy] Horseraces and tail wagging: How do you like your election coverage?”

[Clickworthy] The Media Primary

We are still over a year from the 2012 presidential election, but, as the New York Times reported today, even primary debates are delivering large audiences to cable news networks. People are hungry for politics, and it seems like the Republican pool of candidates face off three times a week in an attempt to gain a few extra points before the Iowa Caucuses.

So how does the media coverage of the 2011 phase of the 2012 election look so far? The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study this morning detailing tone and extent of coverage across multiple media from May 2 to October 9.

Look at the study and you will find all sorts of interesting nuggets. The central findings are as follows:

– The GOP candidates seem to be getting a pretty fair shake from the media in terms of tone of coverage. Newt Gingrich looks like the only current candidate who can claim he is being treated unfairly by the media [which he already does, with every other breath (Look at your watch. Now back at the screen. Newt just blamed the media for his poor poll numbers again.)].

– The candidates may be receiving similar coverage tone, but they are not receiving similar coverage. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michelle Bachmann have dominated the news cycle, leaving scraps for the remaining candidates (I’ve already discussed this phenomenon, and Ron Paul in particular, in an earlier post). The most striking part of this finding is that Perry, who has been covered more than any Republican candidate, didn’t even enter the race until August, which means he was absent for 3 of the 5+ months measured in the study. That’s some serious agenda-setting coverage.

– And finally, the finding that jumped out to me:

One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all, the study found: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-1. Those assessments of the president have also been substantially more negative than positive every one of the 23 weeks studied. And in no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the president positive in tone.

 

Clearly, the positive coverage Candidate Obama received in 2008 has dissolved over almost three years in office. If the media reflects public opinion (which is my interpretation of this relationship) and voters feel the same way, things don’t look good for a second term.

Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?

The media go to humorous extents seemingly to pretend that Ron Paul doesn’t exist, Daily Show host Jon Stewart observed on Monday night, following Paul’s second-place finish in the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll last weekend. The clip has been buzzworthy in circles of political junkies, media observers, and young citizenry looking for the next revolution. As a member of all three, it has appeared on my Facebook feed constantly for the past three days.

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Thanks to the number crunchers at the PEW Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, we can put the claim to the test.

Continue reading “Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?”

Wallace/Stewart interview fallout good for media discourse

Many months ago, in November 2010, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace visited the set of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to talk with Stewart, inevitably, about the perception of bias in Fox News programming. Wallace continually asked Stewart to come on his Fox program.

Last Sunday, Stewart finally obliged. Again the talks took a turn toward bias in the media, and at Fox in particular – this time, on Wallace’s home turf.

(Click on the annotation for part 2)

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