Archive for the ‘US election’ tag

Why don’t we have more analysis of media coverage of politics?

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Whatever you saw, read, or heard about Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention you can be sure of one thing. The coverage will be covered.

Media Matters for America, the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Factcheck.org, the Pew Centre for People & Press, Columbia Journalism Review, TechPresident, lots of university media media centres, and many many blogs will all, in different ways, analyse the media coverage.

Some of these organisations are politically partisan. Media Matters is overtly pro-Democrat and searches for any signs of media bias: ‘ABC reports that Republicans are mocking Democrats’ columned stage, not that 2004 GOP convention stage also had columns’ was one of Thursday’s headlines.

Others are explicitly non-partisan, such as The Pew Centre for Press and People that conducts opinion polls and, with the PEJ, measures media coverage (e.g see ‘Obama rumours get more press‘).

And some focus on new media. Tech President, for example, looks at who is blogging about the campaign, who is watching Obama or McCain on YouTube or supporting the candidate on Facebook, as well as discussion and comment.

This doesn’t include, of course, the analyses by mainstream media. Howard Kurtz on media for the Washington Post. Fox News telling its viewers that the liberal media slavishly compare Obama’s rhetoric with Kennedy’s. Or Jon Stewart ribbing Fox News on the Daily Show.

So what does the UK have by comparison?

Well… Channel 4 makes a valiant effort to run FactCheck UK. There are some good bloggers discussing media, like Adrian Monck and Roy Greenslade (though certainly not restricted to politics). But not much more.

Why isn’t there more analysis of media coverage of politics in the UK? Given how important the media has become to politicians – “a vast aspect of our jobs today…” Tony Blair said last year “is coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity” – you would have thought someone, somewhere, would be keeping a closer record.

Of course there are significant differences in the political process. We know when American elections are going to happen and the build up starts over a year before election day. This means US organisations have both time to prepare and plenty to analyse. In the UK the Prime Minister only has to give the electorate six weeks notice. So though most of us figure the next election will be in 2010, it’s difficult to justify starting election analysis now.

There’s also a lot more riding on the US election. Much as the UK might continue to swing its weight about in the world (hat tip to Mr David Miliband), the US remains the leading global power.

But these differences should only account for a difference in scale and approach. They don’t explain the vacuum of analysis here.

It’s time we had a centre for political media analysis. It’s time for a UK Pew / Project for Excellence in Journalism / TechPresident. Any volunteers?

Written by Martin Moore

August 29th, 2008 at 5:48 am

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Facebook becomes a source of US election news

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The good old Pew Center has conducted a fascinating study into how Americans are getting their news about the US election.

The big finding is, once again, that the internet continues to grow as a source of campaign news – and at the same time traditional media continues to decline (though it needs to be noted that traditional sources are not declining as quickly as the internet is rising). 24% of Americans now regularly get news about the election online – and this rises to 42% of 18-29 year olds.

But within the big picture some of the detailed figures are astonishing. The survey finds that more than a quarter of 18-29 year olds (27%) use social networking sites to get information about the campaign (and 37% of 18-24 year olds).

Information, what information? I realise I’m a social networking neanderthal (having scribbled on none of my Facebook friends’ walls and joined only 2 groups) but the news information I get via Facebook is along the lines of ‘Alison prefers friday nights to monday nights’ or ‘Sarah says she has a crush on an octogenarian DJ’. You can go out and find information about the campaign (see Barack Obama’s ‘Notes’ for example’) and receive news from groups, but in the first case this is hardly impartial and in the second pre-filtered.

This finding can’t help but fuel the concerns of those who think people will become increasingly deaf to any information that might quaintly be called ‘public interest’, prefering to find stuff themselves (however unbalanced) or hear it from their peers.

On a brighter note, the survey suggests serendipity is not dead. 52% of web users said ‘they “come across” campaign news and information when they are going online to do something else’. I guess this is a little like channel surfing late at night, stumbling upon ‘This Week’ and getting stuck listening to Michael Portillo arguing with Dianne Abbot.

And the report also finds that people go to a remarkable range of websites for campaign news. ‘For every person getting campaign news from a site like MSNBC or CNN,’ Pew says, ‘there is a person getting campaign news from a website that targets a far smaller audience’ – most of these being niche internet news websites.

At this rate it looks as though the internet should surpass traditional media as the main source of election news for young people in 2012. Although what ‘news’ they’ll get from it is far from clear.

At least there will always be a hard core of young people interested in politics. An impressive 8% of enthusiastic 18-29 year olds signed up as a ‘friend of the candidate’ – future campaign co-ordinators perhaps?

Written by Martin Moore

January 15th, 2008 at 12:40 pm

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