Think coverage of the presidential candidates is particularly negative? Well, it is, according a new study.
Tracking mainstream media stories about the character and record of the presidential contenders, the study found that nearly three-fourths of coverage was negative.
An examination of narratives in the press about the character and record of presidential contenders found that 72 percent of the coverage has been negative for Barack Obama and 71 percent has been negative for Mitt Romney. The study, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism
, examined the personal portrayal of the candidate in 50 major news outlets over a recent 10-week period.
“These numbers make this as negative a campaign as (the Pew Center) has seen since it began monitoring the master narratives about candidates in press coverage in presidential campaigns in 2000,” the study’s authors said, adding that it is only comparable to the 2004 campaign. During that time, news was filled with the controversy over the war in Iraq, the prison scandal at Abu Ghraib, and the Swift Boat documentaries.
The study also found that journalists are a shrinking source in shaping the candidate narratives, and campaigns and partisans have assumed a much larger role in defining the press coverage of the current campaign.
The study’s authors say the research does not conclude that there is a media bias this election, but they still admit there’s been a change in how the campaigns have been covered.
“Journalists to an increasing degree are ceding control of what the public learns in elections to partisan voices. Less of what we are hearing is coming from the press as an independent intermediary, filtering or assessing political rhetoric. And to that degree, the press is acting more as an enabler or conduit and less as an autonomous reportorial source,” the authors said.
On a related note, the Pew Research Center
issued another report last week that found that the believability ratings for major news organizations have suffered declines. In the survey, positive believability ratings have fallen significantly for nine of 13 news organizations tested.
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.