Underreporting Ron Paul
Several readers have brought to my attention a very interesting National Public Radio interview with Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. A caller to the program, Andrew, asked Rosenstiel a question about coverage of Ron Paul and the power of the press to decide which candidates are “viable.” This is what Rosenstiel had to say:
It raises obviously one of the fundamental questions: is press coverage a self-fulfilling prophecy? Can a candidate who doesn’t get press coverage win votes, or do you need the exposure, the oxygen of attention? Last week, the week before Super Tuesday, the coverage that ended Feb. 3, Ron Paul was a significant or primary figure in zero percent of the stories that we analyzed, 600 stories across 48 different news outlets.
Andrew is correct in suggesting that the press has discounted the chances of Ron Paul having any success. The fundraising success that he’s having is one of the traditional metrics that journalists use to test viability. If someone is raising money, usually that translates into some attention.
For a variety of reasons, some of them are obvious and some of them are mysterious, Ron Paul gets less coverage than he does raise money, and he gets less coverage than he gets votes. We can go on and on about this. There is no doubt, it’s an objective fact, that the press has decided Ron Paul is not a viable candidate.
You can hear the interview for yourself at NPR’s site. Andrew’s question and Rosenstiel’s response occur about five minutes in.
The media news isn’t all so daunting. We’ve been working hard, particularly with local media, to get Dr. Paul’s name out. Our media presence increased over the last three months: in November, we had 2638 broadcast media mentions of Ron Paul; about 2768 hits in December; and 6291 in January, at the height of the primary season. Our print media exposure also increased from December to January, from 2400 hits to 4425 hits. These hits don’t necessarily cover everything, but they’re reflective of trends.
So, we’re fighting back, but as Rosenstiel’s remarks show, we’re up against national media that have already made up their minds about Ron Paul and have decided not to cover him to the extent that his fundraising and his following merit.
(And ideas should count for something too, right? Unfortunately, as the endless hours of TV coverage dedicated to celebrities, celebrity overdoses, and hearings about steroids in baseball indicate, serious issues like the war in Iraq, the declining dollar and tumbling economy, and the growth of ever more intrusive government are just not on the agenda of many “news” sources.)