'Liberal' campaign bias? One analysis tells different story

January 23, 2013 01:30

By:  Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

Despite all the critics who complained the news coverage of Campaign 2012 favored President Obama, the new Tyndall Report tells a different story.

Each year, Andrew Tyndall releases his analysis of how the Big Three networks covered the news of the year.  Tyndall and his team catalogue every network newscast and dissects the coverage into such categories as story content, datelines and correspondents featured.  On the list of the 20 most-covered stories of the year, Campaign 2012 took the #1 spot—at least as far as Mitt Romney’s campaign was concerned.  A total of 479 stories were reported about the Romney campaign—fairly evenly divided among ABC, CBS and NBC. Each broadcast about 160 Romney stories.  

But when it came to the Obama re-election effort, that story ranked 12th on the top 20 list, with a total of only 157 stories.  CBS had the most Obama stories, with 60, followed by NBC (56) and ABC (40.)  But the President’s campaign was surpassed during the year by a host of other stories, including the civil was in Syria (461,) Superstorm Sandy (352,) the London Olympics (246,) and the killing of American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya (168.)

As Tyndall notes, overall, the Presidential campaign was a lackluster affair from a news standpoint.  This follows the news trends involving an incumbent president.  Since Obama’s challenger had to run both a primary and a general campaign, Romney garnered almost three times the coverage as the President from start to finish. 

Away from politics, the major domestic headline was Hurricane Sandy.  But, as we know, even that story had political undertones thanks to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his reaction to President Obama’s involvement in this natural disaster.

Other tragedies, such as the Sandy Hook and Aurora, Colorado theatre shootings also fared prominently, as did the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. 

Tyndall also determined, by his methodology, that the three networks editorial philosophies differed significantly.   CBS spent more time on foreign coverage, the country’s economic woes and wars and defense.  NBC spent the most time, he says, on general hard news and natural disasters (plus the London Olympics—to which NBC held the rights.) And he says ABC continued its trend of giving a fair amount of time to “softer” stories and celebrity features. 

Among rank-and-file correspondents, ABC’s David Muir saw the most face time, with 426 minutes of airtime.  Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s State Department correspondent was second with 269 minutes.  At CBS, Nancy Cordes, the DC-based Capitol Hill reporter saw the most action on that network, with 231 total minutes. 

The Tyndall Report is always an interesting read and you can find the full report here.