Lecture Outline IV:
Media Coverage of Elections

  1. Thomas Patterson, Out of Order
    1. Trends in media coverage of elections
      1. Positive to negative coverage
      2. Governing to game schema
      3. Descriptive to interpretive
      4. Politicians to journalists
      5. Policy issues to reportersí issues
    2. Consequences
      1. Voters distrust candidates, government, media
      2. Voters less informed
      3. Voters adopt media frames
    3. Reasons for change
      1. Candidate oriented campaigns
      2. Television
      3. Watergate and Vietnam
    4. Who is to blame?
      1. Media?
      2. Voters?
      3. Candidates?
      4. Complex interactions between them as well as broader historical trends?
    5. Critique of Patterson
      1. View of media as autonomous actor?
      2. Content analysis versus causal connection between media coverage and public opinion?
      3. Is it possible to account for these trends with alternative explanations?
      4. Negative, trivial coverage reflects reality?
    6. Proposals
      1. Self-enforcement?
      2. Shorten campaigns?
      3. Nine Sundays?
      4. Noticeable improvements in presidential elections since 1992?

  2. Feeding Frenzies, Larry Sabato
    1. Evolution of media coverage of politics from Lapdog (1941-1966) to watchdog (1966-1974) to junkyard dog (1974 to present)
      1. Lapdog journalism (1941-1966): reporting that served and reinforced the political establishment.
      2. Watchdog (1966-1974) scrutinized and checked the behavior of political elites by undertaking independent investigations into statements made by public officials.
      3. Junkyard dog (1974 to present).: reporting that is often and harsh, aggressive intrusive, where feeding frenzies flourish and gossip reaches print.
      4. Historical examples: FDR, JFK, LBJ, RMN, current
    2. Causes
      1. Advances in media technology
      2. Competitive pressures
      3. Pack journalism
      4. WG, VN
      5. Women in the press corps?
      6. Cultural revolution
    3. Questions
      1. Should some subjects about the candidates be off-bounds to the press to cover?
      2. Is character something the media should help voters find out about?
      3. What types of character issues are legitimate and which arenít?

  3. John Zallerís analysis of media coverage (download or read his book at http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/zaller/)
    1. Theory of campaign coverage needs to take into account the different interests of voters, media, and candidates.
    1. Voters: "Donít waste my time"; "Tell me only what I need to know"
    2. Candidates: Use journalists to "Get Our Story Out."
    3. Journalists: Maximize their "voice" in the news.
  1. Media coverage as an arms race, where candidate try to manage coverage and reporters retaliate with negative coverage.
    1. Implications for Patterson, Sabato elections, and media coverage