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Clinton Captures News Coverage

Dems dominate media mentions, but articles cover politics not policy

By Anna L. Tong, Crimson Staff Writer

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. If this is true, there could be a woman headed for the White House this time next November.

New York Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has received the most media coverage of all the 2008 presidential candidates, although most of the coverage has been negative, according to a study released Monday by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

The study examined 1,742 campaign stories that appeared from January to May 2007 in 48 different media outlets, including newspaper, television, radio, and online sources.

Clinton has received the most media coverage of any candidate (17 percent of stories), followed by fellow democrat Barack Obama (14 percent of stories). Rudy Giuliani, the republican candidate who has received the most coverage, was covered in nine percent of the stories.

“Hillary and Barack have really dominated coverage of the campaign,” said Mark Jurkowitz, the associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which co-authored the study.

While Clinton received more negative coverage than positive, Obama received more positive coverage.

Ari S. Ruben ’08, director of Students for Hillary at Harvard, dismissed Clinton’s negative coverage, citing her lead in national polls.

“There are parts of the media that are grossly out of touch with mainstream America,” he said. “Hillary Clinton has generated support from ordinary Americans.”

The study also found that the majority of stories focused on polling and campaign tactics.

“The media’s focus has been overwhelmingly on the strategic elements of the race as opposed to the personal histories of the candidates or their stands on the issues,” said Jurkowitz, a longtime writer at the Boston Globe.

Sixty-three percent of the campaign stories examined “game” aspect of the campaign, such as which candidates were winning or losing in the polls and their fundraising statistics, according to the report. In contrast, 17 percent of stories focused on candidates’ personal histories, and fifteen percent on the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals.

Dean S. Miller, currently a fellow at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, called the study a “dubious enterprise,” and said that different types of media have different methods of coverage and are therefore impossible to analyze together.

However, he agreed with the study’s findings, and called on journalists to change election coverage.

“It is a fact that the American media are still far too interested in the horse race and not interested enough in asking citizens what issues matter to them in coverage,” said Miller, who is executive editor of The Post Register newspaper in Idaho Falls, Idaho. “A paper should be going out and talking to citizens first, and building campaign coverage around citizen attitudes about certain issues.”

—Staff writer Anna L. Tong can be reached at

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