|The ever-expanding media universe offers a wealth of sources of information about the presidential campaign: wire services, the networks, local news, cable, radio, newspapers, newsmagazines, and opinion magazines. The Internet has come to play an increasingly prominent role. In addition to strong online presences of many traditional news organizations, the Internet allows any motivated individual to become a publisher. Information rapidly circulates in the blogosphere and is minutely diced and sliced; readers must take care to ensure its veracity.|
|Think about where you get
your news from. There's a lot of it out there. (See for example:
Todd Gitlin. MEDIA UNLIMITED: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms
Our Lives. Metropolitan Books, March 2002). As a news consumer
you should try to avail yourself of a number of different sources, including
from time to time some you might not normally look at. Read, view
or listen with a critical eye and ear and consider how well the story portrays
the reality of a situation or event.
Two examples of coverage from the 2004 campaign stand out. The first event was Howard Dean's speech on January 19, 2004 following his third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses and more particularly the "primal scream" that he uttered. To those in the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines the scream--part of an energetic speech--was not particularly remarkable, but when picked out by a microphone and played endlessly in the succeeding days and weeks it ascended into campaign lore and forever colored Dean's image.
The second was CBS "60 Minutes" September 8, 2004 report that, "President Bush received preferential treatment to gain entrance to the Texas Air National Guard and that he may not have fulfilled all of the requirements." Online activists quickly raised questions, in particular challenging the authenticity of memos used in the report. Two weeks of controversy followed. On September 20 CBS News anchor Dan Rather apologized for using the documents, stating that he no longer had confidence in them and that it was a "mistake in judgment" to use them. In this instance new media brought one of the giants of old media to heel.
Among the factors that affect the quality and quantity of news and election coverage a particular outlet presents are the available resources (financial, talent, equipment, and commitment), the needs of advertisers and the audience, established news practices, habits and conventions, the peculiarities of individual media, and technology. Thus a local newspaper has a set of strengths and weaknesses that differ from those of a major network. Depending on the ideological biases of the publisher and the editorial staff, information may also be slanted toward or against various viewpoints. (See Media Research Center and Media Matters for America).
For any given medium, information about the campaign can be packaged in a variety of ways. For example, on a network there are the flagship evening newscasts, morning shows, magazine programs, Sunday morning newsmaker programs, occasional specials, and so forth. Similarly, in a newspaper one finds hard news articles, news analysis, long features, lighter, "Style"-type pieces, photographs, columns, editorials, and editorial cartoons.
Just as campaigns vie for support from voters, news organizations seek to gain loyalty of viewers, readers and surfers. Promos in their own pages or broadcasts, or ads placed in other media highlight programming and personalities and establish brand identity.
A campaign unfolds along a fixed chronological path, with clear markers along the way, and there are only so many approaches a news organization can take in covering it. There are, however, huge differences in the quality and consistency of coverage.
Organization and Focus
Media on Media
Many Other Aspects
Reports and Notes
A progressive view "Top Ten media failings in 2004." A conservative view "The Ten Worst Media Distortions of Campaign 2004."
Project for Excellence in Journalism reports:
2000 Coverage--Reports, Aspects
Alliance for Better Campaigns--"Gouging Democracy: How the Television Industry Profiteered on Campaign 2000"
Alliance for Better Campaigns--"Broadcast Television & Campaign 2000: Millions from Ads, Seconds for Discourse" (6/13/00)
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer's Vote 2004
Washington Post's Elections 2004
BBC's Vote USA 2004
ABC News' The Note
Transcripts of CNN's Inside Politics
Frontline's "The Choice 2004"
Newseum's Front Pages
Des Moines Register's Campaign 2004
The Gazette's Iowa Caucus
"Iowa Press"-Iowa Public Television
Lee Enterprises' IowaPulse
New Hampshire Primary
Union Leader's NH Primary
Concord Monitor's Primary Monitor
Frontline's "The Choice"
Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.