PEJ Campaign Coverage Index: March 17 - 23, 2008, The Pastor, The Candidate, And The Speech Lead The News

  • March 25, 2008

It was, to put it simply, the week of “the speech.”

The 37-minute address on race delivered by Barack Obama March 18 at Philadelphia's Constitution Center dominated last week's campaign narrative in the press. While the subject was race relations in America, there were so many subtexts it was hard for the press to know where to begin. First, there was the broader context of political damage control. There was also the fate of the battle for the Democratic nomination. But perhaps the most intriguing element was watching the media culture try to deal with a speech that was so complex it defied the TV panel debate, the skills of the veteran political writer or the parameters of a 90-second nightly news segment.

The numbers alone tell much of the tale. First, Obama utterly dominated the media narrative. He was a significant or dominant figure in 72% of last week's campaign coverage. That was more than twice as many stories as Hillary Clinton, at 30%. Not only was it Obama's highest coverage level in 2008, it was Clinton's lowest since mid-January, when both parties still had multi-candidate presidential fields. And that was despite last week's much-anticipated National Archives release of thousands of pages of records of Clinton's activities as First Lady.

Despite presumptive GOP nominee John McCain's high-profile Mideast mission to burnish his national security credentials, that trip played second fiddle to the Wright controversy as well. McCain registered at only 17% of the campaign coverage as Democrats generated almost 12 times the media attention as Republicans did last week.

Read the full report The Pastor, The Candidate, And The Speech Lead The News on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.