Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Slanted coverage?

There's a story going around on the major blogs and news outlets about coverage during the presidential campaign being much harder on Bush than on Kerry. The study says that 12% of coverage on Kerry was negative, but 36% of coverage on Bush was negative. It also says that while 20% of Bush's coverage was positive, 30% of Kerry's was positive. It also said that 20% of stories on Iraq were positive, while 25% were negative (a far cry from the insistence that the media only reported the bad).

Now I don't have reason to doubt the conclusions of this study, so I'm not going to do that. And I'm not going to go expounding on ideological lines. But I'd just like to raise the question that the reports I've read haven't. But the study says that it examined 16 newspapers, 4 nightly newscasts, 3 network morning news shows, 9 cable programs and 9 Web sites (This is all through the course of 2004). But it doesn't say how much coverage there was given to each candidate, relative to one another. Were there exactly as many stories about Bush as about Kerry? I find that a little hard to believe, but I think it'd be a relative statistic, as it'd push the margin of error up or down depending.

The other thing, which my conservative readers will probably come down on me for, is that when there's a race between an incumbent and a challenger, I wouldn't expect for a second that the coverage of them would be exactly the same. The President is obviously receiving a lot more scrutiny about the job that he's doing at the time as well as about his campaigning for re-election. The incumbent's just got the election.

Maybe I'm missing something, but this study, upon a little deeper inspection, doesn't really seem to say all that much.