Monday, February 25, 2008

Political candidates: Is our coverage fair? Yes

Q. It bugs me that you give Hillary Clinton so much coverage. Her picture appears in your coverage far more often than Barack Obama’s or any other candidate. This has been true throughout the political season. Why don’t you count it up and see if I’m right?
-- Ross M.

A. We strive to be fair to all candidates, keeping in mind the news unfolding as states have held their presidential primaries. Until you asked, however, we hadn’t conducted a count. But intrigued by your concern, I looked back at our coverage since Feb. 1 through this past Friday – 22 days.
Here’s how the photos stacked up on the Democratic side:
-- 22 photos of Hillary Clinton plus four photos of her supporters including husband Bill and daughter Chelsea.
-- 21 photos of Barack Obama and four of his supporters.

On the Republican side, there were 15 pictures of John McCain; six of Mike Huckabee and one of a Huckabee supporter; four pictures of Mitt Romney and one photo of Ron Paul.

This picture count includes small thumbnail-sized photos. In most cases photo sizes of candidates – both Democrats and Republicans – were identical in size. This is not by accident, as we have consciously worked to ensure balanced coverage.

I also counted political stories during this time frame. If you look at only those stories that focused on a specific candidate, here are the results: McCain, 7; Huckabee, 6; Obama, 6; Clinton, 5; Romney, 3. This count excludes stories that focused on issues, such as fundraising for Democratic candidates, or that offered roundups of a Republican primary or Democratic primary, for example.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Republican race was pretty much decided as of Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, while the Democratic race has been closely contested. In addition, it’s fair to say that the candidates’ gender and ethnicity makes the Democratic race historic in a way that the Republican contest was not.

-- Sandra Duerr

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