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Balance in Campaign Coverage
Unformatted Document Text:  Coverage Balance 2 Balance in Campaign Coverage: Reporters’ Perceptions Criticism of the imbalanced media coverage during presidential campaigns is as old as the U.S. republic. In today’s journalism, while partisan news organizations are nearly nonexistent and campaign news is supposed to be balanced, one of the enduring questions is: “Is the media coverage balanced?” There is no easy answer to this question. 1 In the 2000 presidential election, charges of media favorability or bias and of failure in ensuring balance did hang over campaign coverage. In fact, censures of pro-Bush and pro-Gore coverage persisted throughout the campaign. 2 Content analysis found different conclusions regarding media favorability. The Project for Excellence in Journalism, for example, concluded favorable coverage for Bush in September and October 2000. 3 But Lichter demonstrated an evenhanded coverage from Labor Day to Election Day, 4 although he found more favorable coverage for Bush from the pre-election season to the primaries. 5 A more fundamental problem has to do with the methodological limitations of content analysis. Content analysis cannot decipher the underlying and dynamic contexts of a campaign, although it is effective in detecting coverage patterns. For example, it does not answer such questions as how the reporters saw the campaign and what affected their perceptions. What if the reporters thought a certain candidate deserved more favorable coverage? Does more favorable coverage always mean a deviation from balanced coverage? It is too early to draw a conclusion with content analysis, because problems sometimes arise when the complex backgrounds of news reporting are disregarded. 6 One way to answer some of the above questions is by asking political journalists themselves. Although journalists’ main job is to produce news thus one can argue that reporters are too close to their own work to spot imbalance they are important observers of

Authors: Son, Young Jun. and Weaver, David.
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Coverage Balance 2
Balance in Campaign Coverage:
Reporters’ Perceptions
Criticism of the imbalanced media coverage during presidential campaigns is as old as
the U.S. republic. In today’s journalism, while partisan news organizations are nearly nonexistent
and campaign news is supposed to be balanced, one of the enduring questions is: “Is the media
coverage balanced?” There is no easy answer to this question.
1
In the 2000 presidential election,
charges of media favorability or bias and of failure in ensuring balance did hang over campaign
coverage. In fact, censures of pro-Bush and pro-Gore coverage persisted throughout the
campaign.
2
Content analysis found different conclusions regarding media favorability. The
Project for Excellence in Journalism, for example, concluded favorable coverage for Bush in
September and October 2000.
3
But Lichter demonstrated an evenhanded coverage from Labor
Day to Election Day,
4
although he found more favorable coverage for Bush from the pre-election
season to the primaries.
5
A more fundamental problem has to do with the methodological limitations of content
analysis. Content analysis cannot decipher the underlying and dynamic contexts of a campaign,
although it is effective in detecting coverage patterns. For example, it does not answer such
questions as how the reporters saw the campaign and what affected their perceptions. What if the
reporters thought a certain candidate deserved more favorable coverage? Does more favorable
coverage always mean a deviation from balanced coverage? It is too early to draw a conclusion
with content analysis, because problems sometimes arise when the complex backgrounds of
news reporting are disregarded.
6
One way to answer some of the above questions is by asking political journalists
themselves. Although journalists’ main job is to produce news
thus one can argue that
reporters are too close to their own work to spot imbalance
they are important observers of


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