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October 29, 2007
The Absolutely Least Surprising Story of the Campaign to Date
Stop the presses! Coverage of the 2008 presidential election has been "biased and shallow," according to a study released today by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.
Numbers reveal all: Democratic candidates were the subject of half of the 1,742 recent print, broadcast and online news stories analyzed in the research. Republicans garnered 31 percent. Now why doesn't that surprise anyone? Could be because it's been that way for many years. And it's not only the bias that is disturbing people, it's what the press is covering instead of the issues that has people upset:
"Overall, Democrats received more positive coverage than Republicans (35 percent of stories versus 26 percent), while Republicans received more negative coverage than Democrats (35 percent versus 26 percent)," the study said.
A separate survey found that 77 percent of the respondents said they wanted more solid information on candidate policies and ideas. The press did not deliver. Instead, almost two-thirds of the coverage focused on the "game" of the political horse race and candidate "performance." Accounts of their marriages, health and religion followed in importance in 17 percent of the stories — with just 15 percent examining domestic and foreign policies. But what fun is that? If the press can't play "gotchya" with the candidates, what are they going to write about?
A mere 1 percent shed light on candidates' public records. "The press and the public are not on the same page when it comes to priorities in campaign coverage," the study said. "This disparity indicates there is room for the press to calibrate its coverage differently to make it more useful and possibly more interesting to citizens."
If more stories were done on the issues of the campaign rather than the personalities of the candidates, we would have a better informed electorate and a more elevating race. Would it really make a difference in the public's participation?
Perhaps not. But anything would be an improvement over the nightmare we have now.