Maybe the good news for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last week was that the problems of another Democrat—Eliot Spitzer—generated almost as much media attention as they did.
But when the media was covering the race for president, the story for Democrats was ugly. It was dominated by the candidates disavowing inflammatory remarks from supporters, by lingering resentments in both camps, and by festering divisions along racial and gender lines.
For the first time since the primaries began in January, some other story besides the election seriously competed for the media’s attention last week. From March 10-16, the campaign filled 27% of the newshole, as measured in PEJ’s News Coverage Index, the lowest level so far this year (well below the previous 2008 low of 38%). The disclosure that New York Governor Spitzer patronized prostitutes and his March 12 resignation was a close second, filling 23% of the newshole. Online and on the front pages of newspapers, the sordid demise of Spitzer, known by his prostitution ring nickname as “Client 9,” got more attention than the campaign.
In a week of reduced campaign coverage, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain continued his disappearing act, registering as a significant or dominant factor in only 15% of the campaign stories—down from 26% the week before. Overall, stories about Democrats outnumbered those about the Republicans by almost 10 to one.
Read the full report Democrats’ Media Narrative Roiled By Racial Tensions on the Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.