Mass Media Coverage of Presidential Election

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  • Topic: Elections, Political campaign, United States presidential election
  • Pages : 5 (1522 words )
  • Download(s) : 1162
  • Published : December 19, 2001
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Mass media coverage of the U.S. presidential election involves two key elements- news reporting and paid advertising. Combined they make the media an important and influential factor in the election process. The media depends upon the campaigns for both news and revenues. The candidates then rely upon the media to get in touch with the largest number of voters possible.

The Media has a " very powerful and justifiable role"
(Fullerton-1) to play in presidential elections and can actually dictate a campaign agenda. "It is the media's job to sort of be the watchdog (Fullerton-1)." Their job is basically to ferret out the truth and sniff out the falsehoods.

To view the media as one large entity is misleading. It's actually a huge community that includes mainstream media which is the major newspapers and major television networks. Then there is the alternative media, talk radio and tabloid shows which play up the most sensational in politics

The majority of Americans get their political information from the media, the most of which comes from television. Campaign events are covered on the nightly news, and the candidates themselves appear on news interview programs as well as daytime talk shows. At the state and local level of campaigns, candidates usually provide time for interviews with area journalists and the coverage is usually very positive towards their respective campaign.

The media itself, however, "tends to accentuate on the negative aspects of a political campaign, to hit hardest at those who are in power or running ahead, and to emphasize scandal." (Gorin-1). The candidates counter this, and attempt to use the media to their advantage by carefully staging media events. "These usually take place at national monuments or flag factories with balloons and banners in the background to set a real upbeat atmosphere. The speeches made are carefully worded to emphasize making an impact on the news program" (Gorin-1).

There was a dramatic rise of daytime talk shows as a political venue, with independent candidate Ross Perot starting the phenomenon back in 1992 with an appearance on the Larry King Live show. During the taping, Perot basically spelled out the circumstances under which he would consider running for presidency. "Such shows really impact the viewing audience due to the voters chance at speaking directly to the candidate and expressing their own views." (Gorin-1)

The presidential debates are probably the most important media events covered in a campaign because voters can see how candidates react in stressful situations and can read numerous articles analyzing the debate after they occur. The debates basically allow the candidates to go head to head with one another and see who can handle themselves more efficiently and who has the most going for them.

As far as coverage, newspapers usually provide more material to the campaign than does television, due to the large amount of reporters able to cover the campaign as well as less cost and time restraints as TV. Newspapers also have the benefit of "corrective journalism" (Gorin-2). "Instead of printing a candidate's statement one day, an oppositions rebuttal the next and a related opinion piece the third day, journalists have the capability to include charges, countercharges, background research and analysis all in the same article.

However, Louis Wolfson, a professor at American University says " In a larger sense, I don't think the media sent the agenda for a campaign he said. I think the politicians do, because they try to campaign on the issues they are going to be most successful with and to avoid the ones they don't want to answer for (Fullerton-1)."

One question consistently brought up is the use of negative advertising by campaigns. Negative ads tend to turn off many viewers, but says Drexel University political science Prof. William Rosenberg, " negative ads aren't by definition uninformative. They can contain some information about an...
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