Let’s keep the cable news coverage balanced in its coverage of Democratic presidential candidates. Here’s a way.
Daily Survey for One Month
Choose one program that airs daily. Make sure it’s archived if you happen to miss it. For example, you might choose MSNBC as the network and Morning Joe as the program.
Keep a written record.
Your written chart should include the network, program name, date and track the following:
- Cory Booker
- Pete Buttigieg
- Julian Castro
- John Delaney
- Tulsi Gabbard
- Kirsten Gillibrand
- Kamala Harris
- Jay Inslee
- Amy Klobuchar
- Elizabeth Warren
- Bernie Sanders
- Joe Biden
- Beto O’Rourke
- Howard Schultz
- During each hourly program, check mark each time one of the names above is mentioned.
- Tally the mentions each day.
- At the end of the month, total all the mentions, including zero mentions.
The totals will show if there is a balanced portrayal of all the candidates running under the Democratic ticket or if certain individuals receive the bulk of attention. It will also show whether there’s a preponderance of gender receiving more (or less) promotion.
Publish your Monthly Totals
Your work is useless if you don’t push it out there where the network and program see it. If you have a blog, publish the results and post to social media. If you don’t, then post the results to social media. Again, make sure the network and program know they’re being monitored. Pressure like this is the only way they will balance their coverage.
Choose a program that you suspect has uneven coverage. These are the ones that need our pressure.
Interpret Your Totals
If you do blog, interpret your monthly totals. For example, I’ve already noticed very light coverage on declared candidates with persistent and heavy coverage on non-declared candidates. This type of reporting diminishes the Democrats who are running by treating them as invisible and unworthy of attention. Since the media’s treatment of candidates has a correlation with the public’s favorability, cable news is basically saying the current Democrats are not suitable. There are five women, three people of color and one gay male on the ballot. Lack of coverage by cable news is de-legitimizing these candidates. Instead, they are telling the public: “Let’s wait for Joe or Beto,” two straight, white males.
Rinse and Repeat
Continue your monthly survey for as many months as possible.
This survey is an abbreviated version of a university-sponsored survey I participated in many years ago specifically focused on women. This was much more detailed and used print media (my local newspaper). The survey included questions on number of times women were used as sources, whether coverage was negative or positive, soft or hard news along with basics on number of appearances.