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Message Control – How News is Made on the Presidential Campaign Trail

Posted: October 24, 2016 at 8:00 am by , in Breaking News, Elections, Featured, Morning Magazine

“There’s been a shift from covering issues and what the candidates say to covering the behind the scenes machinery of politics.”

During this presidential campaign the media has often been the center of attention –  blamed for giving more coverage to Donald Trump than his rivals for the Republican nomination; blamed for sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton, and accused of unbiased coverage by both sides. Elizabeth Skewes is an associate professor of journalism and media studies at CU Boulder. But earlier in her career she was in the trenches with other reporters covering presidential campaigns….and wrote a book about the process called, “Message Control – How News is Made on the Presidential Campaign Trail.”

She told KGNU’s Roz Brown that she wanted to look at why we don’t have campaign coverage when it comes to serving the needs of voters.  “I think that journalism, especially late in the campaign season, gets very focused on covering polls, on covering the horse race aspects of the campaign, what’s going on in Ohio, is Clinton or Trump going to take Ohio… which if I’m an undecided voter at this stage in the election is really not going to help me make a decision.”

Skewes points to 1960 when the average candidate soundbite was about 45 seconds, whereas now it’s about 7 seconds. “So candidates don’t get to talk very much in news coverage.  There’s been a shift from covering issues and what the candidates say to covering the behind the scenes machinery of politics.”  Skewes says that some of that coverage is meaningful but much of it is just noise and has come about due to the 24 hour news cycle and the political polarization of cable news channels.