In this entry: quotes, warm up questions, discussion questions, resources
This video report looks at press coverage in the week that Sen. Barack Obama toured the Middle East and Europe with network evening news anchors in tow. GOP Sen. John McCain criticized the news media's coverage of the race - alleging that Obama has unfairly received more favorable press coverage.
The analysts, Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the Tyndall Report newsletter that has monitored the broadcast network evening news broadcasts for 20 years, and Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which evaluates more than 300 political stories each week in newspapers, magazines and television, say the Obama phenomenon is unprecedented.
Tyndall, who has monitored how the nightly network news have covered every single campaign since 1988, says McCain has actually gotten more coverage than Dukakis, Clinton, Dole, Gore and both Bushes, but that stories about Barack Obama are in a "different category of treatment of a candidate than we've ever seen before."
"In the first six weeks of this general election phase, in our estimate, 78 percent of the stories that we've studied have featured Obama as a significant presence in the stories, and 51 percent have featured McCain." - Tom Rosenstiel, Project for Excellence in Journalism
"The first and foremost obligation of a journalist is to reflect reality. And if the reality is that Obama is speaking to 200,000 people in Germany and John McCain is in an aisle in the supermarket, the 200,000 people are more newsworthy than Obama. And you wouldn't be reflecting reality accurately if you gave those two events equal weight. You'd lose all credibility in the eyes of your audience, because you'd be saying this spectacular phenomenon that's happening in Berlin is no more or less important than a photo-op in a supermarket." - Andrew Tyndall, The Tyndall Report
"Unlike other news events, the news media are, in a sense, the job interviewers on behalf of the public in a presidential campaign. And I think we have to worry, as journalists, if we disadvantage one candidate consistently over a long period of time." - Tom Rosenstiel, Project for Excellence in Journalism
"Barack Obama is head and shoulders a different category of treatment of a candidate that we've ever seen before. So it's not that McCain is getting the short end of the stick. It's that -- you know, Obama is not getting a stick. He's getting a different category. He's getting a log, not a stick." - Andrew Tyndall, The Tyndall Report
WARM UP QUESTIONS:
Do you think the media treats presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain fairly?
What is the role of a journalist? What obligations do journalists have to cover the presidential campaign fairly and accurately?
Did you agree with the analysts in this discussion?
Why are there more stories about Obama? Do you think Americans know enough about both of the candidates? What would you like to know more about?
What is the difference between what we think we should know more about (the issues?) and that stories we find ourselves drawn to (personal stories and scandal?) ?
Transcript of this report
Online NewsHour’s Vote 2008 coverage