Presentation on theme: "News coverage of political campaigns"— Presentation transcript:
1 News coverage of political campaigns A review and evaluation
2 What should news coverage be like? Informative“Objective”Fair and balancedFocused on what’s importantContextualizedAccurateAdequateUseful
3 Has this always been the case? No—early newspapers were partisan in the extremeParty papers were financially supported by politicians or their supporters
4 To what extent to do people use the media? There has been a continuing and fairly precipitous decline in newspaper reading, tv news attendance, newsmagazine circulation.The only increase is in use of the Internet for political information, but that does not nearly offset the declines elsewhere
13 How do people get their campaign news? Television news dominatesLocal TV is more heavily used that network TV
14 Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Cable and Internet Loom Large in a Fragmented Political News Universe,’’ January 11, 2004* Survey qu.: "For each item that I read, please tell me how often, if ever, you learn something about the presidential campaign or the candidates from this source." Chart shows percent of Americans who "regularly" learn something from given outlet.
15 What can we say about news coverage? Although we will review political knowledge in more detail later, we can certainly say that Americans have very low levels of political knowledge and understandingIt’s a running joke on the Tonight Show, etc.Can we trace this to lack of interest or is it tied to news media performance?
16 News media performance The news media can be evaluated on a number of dimensions of campaign coverage, but the most common are:The amount of information providedThe nature of the presentationBiasSensationalism
17 What do we find in the news? The agenda of the American news media continues to narrow, not broaden. A firm grip on this is difficult but the trends seem inescapable. A comprehensive audit of coverage shows that in 2007, two overriding stories — the war in Iraq and the 2008 presidential campaign — filled more than a quarter of the newshole and seemed to consume much of the media’s energy and resources. And what wasn’t covered was in many ways as notable as what was. Other than Iraq — and to a lesser degree Pakistan and Iran — there was minimal coverage of events overseas, some of which directly involved U.S. interests, blood and treasure. At the same time, consider the list of the domestic issues that each filled less than a single percent of the newshole: education, race, religion, transportation, the legal system, housing, drug trafficking, gun control, welfare, Social Security, aging, labor, abortion and more. A related trait is a tendency to move on from stories quickly. On breaking news events — the Virginia Tech massacre or the Minneapolis bridge collapse were among the biggest — the media flooded the zone but then quickly dropped underlying story lines about school safety and infrastructure. And newer media seem to have an even narrower peripheral vision than older media. Cable news, talk radio (and also blogs) tend to seize on top stories (often polarizing ones) and amplify them. The Internet offers the promise of aggregating ever more sources, but its value still depends on what those originating sources are providing. Even as the media world has fragmented into more outlets and options, reporting resources have shrunk.Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism “State of the News Media 2008”
18 Local news coverage, Oct Local news coverage, Oct. 4-10, 2004 (Source: Lear Center Local News Archive)
19 Campaign coverage on local TV news Average length of a campaign story81 secondsNearly two-thirds contained no candidate soundbitesWhen they did speak, it averaged 12 secondsStrategy or horserace: 45%Campaign issues: 29%Local elections: 5%
20 MNI Average 30 Minute Broadcast Significant Variance by Market UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN NEWSLABMNI Average 30 Minute Broadcast Significant Variance by MarketCategory–Advertising10 min 7 secSports and weather7 min 1 secCrime2 min 27 secOther2 min 18 secLocal interest2 min 1secTeasers, bumpers, intros1 min 46 secNon-campaign gov’t news1 min 6 secHealth1 min 4 secBusiness, economy1 min 2 secElection coverage36 secForeign policy23 secUnintentional injury11 sec
21 Broadcast-Level Analysis UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN NEWSLABBroadcast-Level AnalysisThe breakdown by office:Gubernatorial coverage consumed a third of the airtime (34 percent) devoted to election stories.More than one out of every ten stories (11 percent) was about U.S. House candidates, almost double the coverage of U.S. Senate candidates (6 percent).Voting issue stories comprised 8 percent of election coverage.Ballot initiatives and bond issues also received 5 percent of all election coverage.
22 Broadcast-Level Analysis UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN NEWSLABBroadcast-Level AnalysisStrategy and horserace stories vastly outweighed substantive issue coverage by a margin of almost 3 to 1 (63 to 23 percent).Roughly one out of every twenty stories (6 percent) was about former Congressman Mark Foley.In the last week of the study (Foley resigned on September 29), 19 percent of all election stories were about Foley. Also, in the last week, 42 percent of stories about the House were about Foley.
23 Broadcast-Level Analysis UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN NEWSLABBroadcast-Level AnalysisOnly a little over one in four (30 percent) of stories contained acandidate sound bite. When candidates were allowed to speak, theaverage sound bite was just under 13 seconds.Local candidates averaged slightly longer sound bites (justover 18 seconds)US House candidates received roughly 12 seconds, gubernatorialcandidates received 10 seconds, and US Senate candidatesreceived 9 seconds on average
24 On Campaign Coverage on The Nightly News THE HESS REPORTOn Campaign Coverage on The Nightly News
25 Minutes Devoted to Campaign Coverage Note : Based on 772 stories from August 31, 1992 to November 2, 1992; 483 stories from September 2, 1996 to November 4, 1996; 462 stories from September 4, 2000 to November 6, 2000 from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news.Data: Center For Media And Public Affairs/Brookings
26 Minutes Devoted to Campaign Coverage: ABC, CBS, NBC Note : Based on 772 stories from August 31, 1992 to November 2, 1992; 483 stories from September 2, 1996 to November 4, 1996; 462 stories from September 4, 2000 to November 6, 2000 from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news.Data: Center For Media And Public Affairs/Brookings
27 THE SHRINKING SOUNDBITE Note: Based on 589 stories from September 5, 1988 to November 7, 1988 ; 728 stories from September 7, 1992 to November 3, 1992; 483 stories from September 2, 1996 to November 4, 1996; 462 stories from September 4, 2000 to November 6, 2000 from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news.Data: Center For Media And Public Affairs/Brookings
28 Horse Race as Percent of Total Campaign Coverage Note: Horse Race stories focus on who’s ahead, who’s behind, and candidate election strategies. Statistics on the percent of stories based on total number of election stories from that particular news organization. Based on 772 stories from August 31, 1992 to November 2, 1992; 483 stories from September 2, 1996 to November 4, 1996; 462 stories from September 4, 2000 to November 6, 2000 from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news.Data: Center For Media And Public Affairs/Brookings
29 Horse Race as Percent of Total Campaign Coverage: ABC, CBS, NBC Note: Horse Race stories focus on who’s ahead, who’s behind, and candidate election strategies. Statistics on the percent of stories based on total number of election stories from that particular news organization. Based on 772 stories from August 31, 1992 to November 2, 1992; 483 stories from September 2, 1996 to November 4, 1996; 462 stories from September 4, 2000 to November 6, 2000 from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news.Data: Center For Media And Public Affairs/Brookings
30 Horse Race as Percent of Total Campaign Coverage Note: Horse Race stories focus on who’s ahead, who’s behind, and candidate election strategies. Statistics on the percent of stories based on total number of election stories from that particular news organization. Based on 772 stories from August 31, 1992 to November 2, 1992; 483 stories from September 2, 1996 to November 4, 1996; 462 stories from September 4, 2000 to November 6, 2000 from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news.Data: Center For Media And Public Affairs/Brookings
31 Negative ToneNote: Statistics on the percent of positive and negative evaluations based on total number of evaluations in the stories. Explicitly negative and positive statements by non-partisan sources were considered when judging whether coverage was negative or positive Based on 772 stories from August 31, 1992 to November 2, 1992; 483 stories from September 2, 1996 to November 4, 1996; 462 stories from September 4, 2000 to November 6, 2000 from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news.Data: Center For Media And Public Affairs/Brookings
32 What does the public think of press performance? The public’s view of the press has been in decline for many yearsSee the press as biasedSee the press as having few moralsSee news as obsessed with sensational stories, fluff
34 Trend in public attitudes toward the press (Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism)
35 Trend in public attitudes toward the press (Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism)
36 Trend in public attitudes toward the press (Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism)
37 Believability of news media Percent of public rating medium highly believable,Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, ’’News Media’s Improved Image Proves Short-Lived,’’ August 4, 2002Survey question: "How would you rate the believability of (item) on [a] scale of 4 to 1?"
38 Public beliefs about the press Source: Gallup poll of 1,025 Americans, September 2003
39 Trend in public attitudes toward the press (Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism)
40 Trend in public attitudes toward the press (Source: Project for Excellence in Journalism)
49 NewsworthinessThis is the term used by journalists and critics to describe characteristics of some topic or event that identify it as something that should be covered by the press or by a journalistic organizationWhat are the features that make something newsworthy?
50 Newsworthiness features Two types of valuesImportanceSensational valueImportance relates to the impact the event or topic is likely to have on the audienceTax policySensational values relate to the oddity or emotional charge a story hasMurderAccidentsSexWeirdness (“Lipstick on a pig”)
51 Why sensational values? Simply put, journalists believe that the public is more likely to tune in to see sensational coverage than important storiesThey may be right
52 Audience preferences Sensationalism People watch news in large numbersSmall audiences for “serious journalism”, e.g. Newshour, opinion journals, editorial pagesScreaming matches rather than debateCommon focus on bizarre, conflictual, seamy, violentLook at popular cultureMoviesTelevision showsSuccess of more sensational news formats60 Minutes
57 Horserace news is widely available for the simple reason that it attracts readers and viewers. Our evidence shows that substantial numbers of readers sought out the news reports on the horserace, even though these reports were located at the end of the CD. After taking into account the longitudinal trend in page visits, horserace stories attracted the most traffic within the CD, even more than “scandal” stories.Source: Consumer Demand for Election News: The Horserace Sells Iyengar, Norpoth, and Hahn, Journal of Politics, February 2004
59 "At the end of the day, I hope this is more about the fairness and accuracy of my reporting than about my hairstyle." -- Jennifer Eccleston
60 Can the two values work together? The challenge, then, may be to combine the two valuesEmphasize sensational features of a story to draw attention while including important information that has value in the long runDoes the audience better understand tax policy from the “Joe the Plumber” stories?
61 BiasThe most common complaint against the news media is the charge of ideological biasIt has become almost an automatic belief among conservativesRepeated regularly among radio talk hosts, pundits, party functionaries
62 He was known for attacking his opponents with unusual turns of phrase He was known for attacking his opponents with unusual turns of phrase. Among his most famous were "nattering nabobs of negativism", and "effete corps of impudent snobs". Both expressions refer to the press corps, whom both Agnew and Nixon considered to be their ideological enemies and which ultimately played a role in Nixon's downfall."pusillanimous pussyfoots" and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history"Speech excerpt
64 Journalists’ self-designation Source: Pew Center poll of print journalists
65 Print journalists’ views on bias NationalLocalIt is a valid criticism that journalists are letting their ideological views show in their reporting too frequently43%It is a valid criticism of the press that the distinction between reporting and commentary has seriously eroded58%57%Source: Pew Research Center poll of print journalists
68 Audience preferences Right-wing populism “Patriotism” FoxLimbaugh, etc.“Militarism of local news” (Gitlin and Hallin)Local news, especially, dropped all pretension of neutrality during Gulf War ISame appears true today
71 Opposition:A smaller number of critics argues that the media lean right rather than leftRobert Parry: “The notion of a ‘liberal’ national news media is one of the most enduring and influential political myths of modern U.S. history. Shaping the behavior of both conservatives and liberals over the past quarter century, the myth could be said to have altered the course of American democracy and led the nation into the dangerous corner it now finds itself.”
72 Survey of journalists Left 30% Right 19% Q#22. On social issues, how would you characterize your political orientation?Q#23. On economic issues, how would you characterize your political orientation?Left 30%Left 11%Center 57%Center 64%Right 9%Right 19%Other 5%
73 Journalists and public on specific policies Journalists appear to be left of publicJournalists appear to be right of publicProtecting Medicare and Social SecurityXXThe expansion of NAFTAXRequiring employers to provide health insurance for workersStricter environmental lawsConcern over corporate powerTaxing the wealthyImpact of NAFTA‘Fast track’ trade authorityGovernment guaranteed medical care
74 PunditryModern journalism is heavily dependent upon sources of informationJournalists often either simply quote or interview sources of informationSources are much more likely to be government officials than any other groupThose who act as ‘pundits’ are significantly more likely to be conservative than liberalThink tanks, etc.
75 Number of think tank citations in media by ideology 20032002Conservative or Center-Right13,989 47%12,249 47%Centrist11,605 39%10,599 41%Progressive or Center-Left3,896 13%3,217 12%Total29,490 100%26,055 100%Source: Nexis database on major newspaper and radio and TV transcripts.
76 Owners’ and managers’ attitudes Rights of ownershipFire dissident employeesRelatively rareHire according to political tendenciesNot commonHowever, may be becoming more common“Fox phenomenon”Advancement according to acceptance of editorial policy
81 Socialization of journalists New journalists learn ‘editorial policy’ subtly through the working of the news systemEditing of stories handed inSuccess of journalists who follow the rulesPlacement of storiesStar reporters with perksOccasional ‘talking to’ by editorsCoffee klatchesEvaluation of elite press coverageRead own paper each day
82 The influence of professionalism Journalists neither simply follow their personal political philosophy nor kowtow to their employer’s wishesSchools of journalism, etc. that help to inculcate values and expertise of the ‘profession’ObjectivityAccuracyNewsworthinessStorytelling skills
83 Objectivity as a press value "Good reporters write balanced, rounded stories," says David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winner now covering tax issues for The New York Times, who has lectured widely on journalism issues. "I have worked at five major newspapers and sat next to people who held political views that ranged from fascist to communist, and I would be hard pressed to find any sign of that in their work as reporters or editors. A better test than the liberal-vs.-conservative paradigm would be ideological-vs.-non-ideological, and rounded-vs.-not rounded.Source: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
90 Source: Survey of 101 reporters by Iyengar, McGrady and Woo reported in Nieman Reports, Fall 2005
91 Perhaps the most significant influence Massive cutbacks at newspaper, TV news (local and network) and newsmagazines have significantly changed the approach to newsVery little investigative news leftGreatly increased dependence upon materials supplied by public relations specialistsNo cushion left for news to be insulated from economic pressures
92 Journalists in this survey are much less concerned than three years ago or eight years earlier about issues of quality and credibility. In earlier years the quality of the coverage was the chief concern among those surveyed. In 1999, 44% named issues of quality as the top problem facing journalism as did 41% in Now half as many, about two in ten, place these issues at the top. The same drop occurred among local journalists, falling from 33% in 2004 to 21% in 2007.Concerns about the lack of credibility declined even more, falling from 28% of national journalists and 23% of locals naming it as the top problem in 2004 to just 9% for both groups this year.Yet this does not mean that journalists are now satisfied. Less than 20% of journalists named the quality of coverage as something that journalism “is doing especially well these days.”But these concerns over quality may now be more concerned with resources than with the attitudes or professionalism of the journalist. Indeed, this concern is overwhelmingly shared. More than eight in ten journalists surveyed, a greater percentage than in 2004, agree that news organizations have cut back too much on the scope of their reporting and that too little attention is paid to complex issues.What seems to be happening instead is that other, more pressing issues have evolved — namely those of money and bottom-line pressures.
93 Ultimately: Journalists are personally liberal Elite media more so than the restThey are not so clearly or unambiguously liberal as they are portrayedMajority are centristActually centrist or conservative on economic matters, liberal on social equality issues, government social actionTrend has been toward a more conservative or libertarian position for journalistsDefinition of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have both drifted to the right‘New news’ and non-fiction formats have been on the conservative sideEditors and management are more conservativeProfessionalism and organizational influences run counter to a liberal news bias
94 Mostly:News is a product of a large number of influences, not just political views of the journalists themselvesThe greatest influence is probably the search for profitDefinition of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are fluid and dependent upon the audience attitudes at least as much as the news performance