May
22
2008

FAIR Study: TV News Stresses Strategy, Downplays Issues

TV news coverage of the presidential primaries has focused

on campaign strategy rather than candidates' stands on issues, and gave some candidates 100 times more coverage than others, according to a new study by FAIR.

FAIR studied primary election coverage on the nightly broadcast network newscasts in the six weeks leading up to February 5, often referred to this year as “Super-Duper Tuesday,” when 24 states held primaries or caucuses.

Of the 385 news stories aired on ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News:

252 stories were mainly about campaign strategy--the “how” of getting elected--and 79 of those were only about strategy.

Only 19 stories, or one story in 20, were mainly about issues.

Eighty six percent of the stories were about campaign strategy/analysis, while 41 percent mentioned issues.

When issues such as the economy, immigration and the Iraq War were present in a story, they were more often than not referred to in passing, usually in relation to polling.

In the 55 stories that raised the Iraq War as an issue, the networks made no mention of any of the Democrats’ plans for troop withdrawal or their stances on the troop “surge.”

There was a vast discrepancy in the amount of coverage candidates received, with Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, John McCain and Mitt Romney all receiving over 900 mentions, while Joe Biden, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich received ten or fewer mentions.

Kucinich appeared only seven times, with four of those reporting on his exiting the race.

The full study is available at: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3368