Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You don't say! Press harder on McCain

Dog bites man story. Media harder on Republican candidate.
The good news for John McCain? He's now receiving as much attention from the national media as his Democratic rival. The bad news? It’s overwhelmingly negative.

Just 14 percent of the stories about John McCain, from the conventions through the final presidential debate, were positive in tone, according to a study released today, while nearly 60 percent were negative — the least favorable coverage of any of the four candidates on the two tickets.

The study, by The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpartisan journalism watchdog organization, examined 2,412 stories from 43 newspapers and cable news shows in the six-week period beginning just after the conventions and ending with the final presidential debate.

"Much of the increased attention for McCain derived from actions by the senator himself, actions that, in the end, generated mostly negative assessments,” the study found. “In many ways, the arc of the media narrative during this phase of the 2008 general election might best be described as a drama in which John McCain acted and Barack Obama reacted."

Indeed, the increased and increasingly negative media attention for McCain isn’t surprising when looking at how the campaign’s strategy changed since the beginning of the general election.

"We ran a different kind of campaign and nobody cared about us," spokesman Brian Rogers told Politico last month, adding later that “we intend to stay on offense.”

For Barack Obama, the study found coverage “has been somewhat more positive than negative, but not markedly so," with 36 percent of the storiees positive in tone, 35 percent mixed, and 29 percent negative.

So do these numbers reveal a pro-Obama bias? Not necessarily, according to the study’s authors.

Rather, they say, the statistics “do offer a strong suggestion that winning in politics begat winning coverage, thanks in part to the relentless tendency of the press to frame its coverage of national elections as running narratives about the relative position of the candidates in the polls and internal tactical maneuvering to alter those positions.”
Yes the press follows the polls like a pack herd; it's the only mentality it knows. If McCain pulls off a Truman-like victory on November 4, the press will become one of the most reviled institutions in America.

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