I can’t find the full report on the organization’s web site, but Reuters says that the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which is affiliated with Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, has issued a report that finds that “U.S. media coverage of last year’s election was three times more likely to be negative toward President Bush than Democratic challenger John Kerry.” They study looked at stories in newspapers, network news broadcasts, morning news shows–probably the worst offenders–cable programs and a few web sites. The report’s conclusions:
36 percent of stories about Bush were negative compared to 12 percent about Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.
Only 20 percent were positive toward Bush compared to 30 percent of stories about Kerry that were positive.
That is really a stunning difference: almost two to one negative about Bush, and an astonishing two and a half to one positive for Kerry. It is almost impossible to see how a candidate could overcome such a disparity, but for this:
Looking at public perceptions of the media, the report showed that more people thought the media was unfair to both Kerry and Bush than to the candidates four years earlier, but fewer people thought news organizations had too much influence on the outcome of the election.
“It may be that the expectations of the press have sunk enough that they will not sink much further. People are not dismayed by disappointments in the press. They expect them,” the authors of the report said.
I think that’s right. In a closely related development, the audience for blogs has surged:
The study noted a huge rise in audiences for Internet news, particularly for bloggers whose readers jumped by 58 percent in six months to 32 million people.
I think this is another in a series of inflated blog-reader numbers, but whatever the real number is, it’s obviously pretty big–a lot bigger than it would be if people’s expectations of the mainstream media weren’t so dismal.