Does Obama get too much media coverage?
NEW YORK – Few would doubt that Barack Obama has attracted more media coverage than his Republican rival John McCain, fueling suspicion that journalists are biased towards Obama.
A Rasmussen Reports survey in July found that 49 percent of voters believe most reporters are trying to help Obama. Just 14 percent believed most reporters were trying to help McCain and 24 percent said most reporters tried to be objective.
Many journalists argue that Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, is simply a bigger story than McCain, who fits the traditional mold of a man running for president.
Andrew Tyndall, whose Tyndall Report monitors news on the three major TV networks, said Obama’s overseas trip in July was “the culmination of the storyline about Obama getting all the media coverage.”
Up to that point, he said, Obama had a 2-to-1 advantage in airtime but there seemed to have been a “self-correcting mechanism” by the media in recent weeks, influenced also by the fact that Obama went on vacation, leaving the field to McCain.
From July 28 to Aug 15, Tyndall said total network coverage of McCain took up 45 minutes compared to 28 minutes for Obama.
“Obama coverage went way off after the hyper-charged cover of his trip and the last three weeks he’s been off the radar screen,” Tyndall said.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, said analysis of 48 TV, cable, radio, newspapers and Internet outlets showed 50 percent of general election stories were “significantly” about McCain (at least 25 percent about him) while 80 percent were significantly about Obama.
But a report at the end of July by the Center for Media and Public Affairs said that since the primaries ended, on-air evaluations of Obama have been 72 percent negative while McCain’s coverage was 57 percent negative.
Another report this week by the same institution tracked the number of jokes about the candidates told by late night chat show hosts Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and David Letterman. Obama was the subject of 169 jokes to McCain’s 322.
Obama was the subject of more jokes on Comedy Central, however — 207 to 201 — a trend the report linked to heavy news media coverage, which it said may have spurred greater attention from “fake news” shows on the channel.
It said the most frequent McCain jokes dealt with his age while Obama jokes tended to portray him as “pretentious or the beneficiary of fawning media coverage.”
A sample joke (from Leno): “The only way McCain could get less coverage is if he got a primetime show on NBC.”
PICTURES: REUTERS/ Jason Reed, Rebecca Cook