to review research on news Converage of political campigns we start with a basic premise : all news is contruction of reality. Converage of political campigns represents an on-going negotiation amang key actor in the campign process; on the media side journalists, editor and owners ; on the campign side-canditates, campign staffers, and party activitits. to lesser extent the publik, goverment insitution and their incumbents, interest groups,and experts also play a role in the news making process
each actor endeavorts to control how the news story is told. (benetg, 2001) the outcome of negotations over the news depends on the power of the source as wellas on the relative social, political, or economical consequences of the news itself. in the past 20 years, presidential canditates have become savvy about hoe to stay “on message” and how to get joutnalists to cover what they wont the public to hear. journalists, for their part, are dogged in the search for inconsistency, hypocrisy, or scandal and can require candidates to speak to issues that the press deems newsworthy. in presidential election campigns, both journalists ans the candidates bring a great deal of leverage to the negotation of news. as a result, there is often a hotly contested struggle betwen reporters and official or canditates for control of the news message.
given the political stakes in campign, the idea that the news media might use their influence to promote the advantage of one side or the other has preoccupied scoholars and worried citizents. to the great relief of most observers partisan bias is not widespread modern campign news many researchers have shown hawever that although partisan bias is modest, structural bias, rooted in journalistic norm.influses political coverage.
in addition to structural biases in the way news is reported, social scientists have found that the construction of news has many other subtle, influences. these include, for excample, agenda setting, that is, signaling the important isues of the campign. priming leading news audences to particular interpretation of event that then shape their evaluation of political official and candidates.
news medi impact has also been observed in what people learn from the news and their attiudes toward the democratic process. on the whole, researchers have been disappointed in the amount of political learning that takes place during a campign. electoral studies in the 1940. hoped to find that the new electonic medium of radio would make it eariser for voters to become informed on the isssues. leter on, televison also raised hopes for a better informed electorate. yet citizen level of knowledge about candidates and issue appears to have remained constant in the face of new media of media comunication. researchers have questionedwhether the nature of news in the problem. in particular, they wonder whether or not journalists are providing the kinds of campign news that will help the electorate make voting decisions in line with their policy preferences and their assessments of candidates.
the past 60 year of research into how journalists coverpresidental election campigns has givenus a clear picture of what gets reported in newspapers and on television and how that converage has evolved over time. numerous studies have shown that campign news is overly focused on strategies, tactics, poll result and candidates prospects for winning rather than on the subtantive issues of the campign. the news places campigns within a competitive framework or game frame, that characterizes election in term that would be more appropriate for a horse race or some other sport event.
this chapter begins with the study of journalism and american presidential election campigns. the topics we consider include political bias, struktural bias, group construction of news, and the rise of interpretive journalism. we examine how campign coverage has changed in the face of televison and the growth of local, cable, and internet news sources. we evaluate news converage of non presidential campaigns in the united states, recognizing that the analysis of election news and its effects must necessarily take into account different levels of office. the chapter then explores how campaign news treat minority political candidates. we conclude by sunggesting promising avenues for future research including comparative election studies.
presidential campign coverage
the serch for a political bias
Constructing campaign news takes place in an evolving media environment. in the early 19th century, news media in the united states were openly partisan. as wire services became prominent in the delivery of news a more “Objective” standardof reporting became the professional norm. when scholars began evaluating the content and quality of the news media’s coverage of election, one of their primary questions was whether news reflected a partisan ideological bias. their concern was based on the assumption that the slant of the news would influence voter to make decisons not neceessarilly in their own or the public interest.
experience with goverment propaganda during the world wars heightened concern about press bias. two of the earliest empirical studies of campaign media were extensive content analysis of the 1940 and 1948 presidential election news coverage.researchers examined local newspeper, populer national, magazines and radio broadcasts. the studies initially found substantial partisan bias in both the print and the broadcast media, wich intensified as election day neared. a closer look revealed however that partisanship was found among the columnists and editorial writers, with almost no bias in the stories filed by individual reporters. these studies reassured observers that the wall betwen factual reporting and opinion,vaunted by the american press was indeed in place and that citizens could depend on the objectivity of the news.
Repeated analyses of news coverage of recent precidential elections continue to find no evidence of partisan bias in news reporting (D’Alessio & Allen, 2000 ; Hofstetter, 1976, just et al. 1996, Patterson,1980, Patterson&McClure, 1976). This does not mean, however, that the coverage has been neutral. Some candidates receive more favorable coverage than others. For example, lichter (2001), Lowry and Shildler and Zaller have found that democrats has received slighty more favorable coverage than Republicans in the past 50years, yet it has not been unusual in particular election for repunlican candidate to receive more favorable coverage than democrats. A recent study found in newspaper, the wall between editorial opinion and news is not as impervious as previous research suggest and some news slant in favor of editorially and endorsed candidates may influences voters in senate election.
The diverse findings about which candidates are advantaged in news are wiedly acknowledge to reflect some kind of “ structural bias” in reporting.ie. that norms of journallism or reporter behavior favor news about some topics over other and that this news emphasis advantages some candidates and disadvantages others, for example if reporter regard a candidate’s loss off support in opinion polls as highly newsworthy, losing candidate will receive negative coverage regardless of party. The news is biased against losing candidate not because of their policy positions, but because reporters decisions about what is news. Some researchers find candidates of both parties receive negative coverage when they are not doing well in the polls or that badnews about candidates is more likely to be covered than is positive news. Others maintain that is the front-runner or the cadidates who is perceived as havung some unfair advantage, who receives more negative coverage, whereas dark horse candidats benefits from a more positive tone. One area of consensus among scholars is that third party candidates and lesser-known candidates in the primaries get the least amount of coverage and also get very few oppotunities to have their own words appear in print or heard over the air.