By: DOROTHY GIOBBE
ECHOING A LAMENT voiced by the nation’s voters, most newspaper executives don’t think the media ? including their own newspapers ? are doing a very good job of covering the 1996 presidential campaign.
According to a new study based on interviews with 888 publishers, editors and advertising directors, fewer than one in ten participants say the media are doing an excellent job of reporting on the campaign thus far.
When rating their own campaign coverage on a scale from one to 10, with 10 as excellent, the entire newspaper executives on average graded themselves between five and six. Other media rated about the same.
But when the executives were split into category, editors graded themselves harshly, with only 3% rating their own newspapers’ presidential campaign coverage as excellent, compared to presidents/publishers (5%), and advertising/marketing directors (8%).
The study was conducted by media research firm American Opinion Research as part of the annual State of the Newspaper Industry study. It was sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Foundation for American Communications.
“These are very mediocre ratings,” said Anthony M. Casale, president of AOR, and a former editor at USA Today. “Even editors rated themselves poorly, indicating they recognize the need to do a more perceptive job of campaign reporting.”
The most often-cited reason (44%) for the substandard quality of coverage is that the media do not cover national issues germane to the campaign.
Others say that there is too much focus on the “horse race” aspect of the presidential race (25%); too little analysis of campaign issues (13%); and the media decide who are the ‘major’ and ‘minor’ candidates (9%). Also, participants said there is not enough analysis of candidate performance (8%), and too much emphasis on ‘event’ coverage (8%).
When rating the performance of all media, 21% of the advertising/marketing directors said the media do an excellent job of providing useful information to voters, compared with 9% of the publishers and 8% of the editors.
Grading the media on providing fair, unbiased coverage of candidates, 14% of the editors rate the media excellent, compared with 9% of the presidents/publishers and 6% of the advertising/marketing directors.