I conducted a study about six years ago where I followed campaign coverage of the 1992 Presidential election in our country’s major periodicals, The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. At the time of the study, the incumbent George Bush was leading in the polls by a substantial margin over Bill Clinton. The information and patterns I discovered following the daily coverage of these major newspapers was quite enlightening.
The press that Bill Clinton received during his campaign overwhelmingly surpassed anything George Bush received. Almost daily, the aforementioned periodicals would contain large articles about the Clinton campaign. These articles entailed, where he stopped, where he spoke, basically whatever he did for the day. However, coverage of George Bush and his campaign stops or appearances were seldom if ever covered. The evidence led me to believe that the press wanted Clinton to close the gap. It looked as if they were trying to make a horse race out of the election. The closer the race the better the story. The better the story the better the sales. In this case, I concluded that the press was the most important factor in putting Bill Clinton in office.
The news media is a multi-billion dollar business with many players looking to get their piece of the pie. Unfortunately, in their efforts to sell more papers and attract more viewers they lose sight of the real task and responsibility at hand, delivering honest unbiased reliable information. With so many 24-hour news stations out there and daily periodicals, the competition to be first to cover a breaking story is immense. Journalists are rushed to get their product on the airwaves as quickly as possible, with no real effort placed on confirmation of facts.