Story by Andra Brichacek. Video by Ryan Lund and Aaron Nelboy. Photos by Schaeffer Bonner and also Karly DeWees.

You are watching: Why do some candidates for president receive more media coverage than others?

Ask Donald Trump and also he’ll tell you journalists wield a lot of power over the U.S. political process.

It’s true that the media have actually played an essential duty in politics because the First Amendment establiburned liberty of the press as a cornerstone of American democracy. Voters need indevelopment to make educated decisions, and also it’s journalists’ project to give it to them.

But have the right to the media really change the outcome of an election?

In enhancement to widespcheck out voter fraud, which many professionals agree would certainly be impossible to achieve, Trump is alleging the election has actually been "rigged" through biased media coverage. Recent shifts in the media landscape have changed just how the push interacts with candidates, projects and also the voting public. And, at a time as soon as trust in the media is at an all-time low, the fourth estate has come under fire from critics on both sides of the aisle for its coverage of the 2016 elections.

To uncover out what the research study states about media’s evolving duty in the elections process, we talked to three scholars from the UO School of and Communication.

1. To cover or not to cover

Regina Lawrence, executive director of the SOJC"s Agora Center and writer of “Hillary Clinton’s Race for the White House: Gender Politics and the Media on the Campaign Trail,” is a nationally recognized expert in political communication. Photograph by Schaeffer Bonner.

The first method journalists gain associated in elections is by selecting which candidates to cover and also how a lot. Those choices alone can have actually a vast result on voter perceptions.

“As difficult as it is to believe, the greatest thing that drives elections is simple name acknowledgment,” shelp Regina Lawrence, executive director of the UO SOJC’s Agora Center and also George S. Turnbull Portland Center. “Research has displayed that some candidays deserve to be literally left invisible bereason they can’t win sufficient interest from the media.”

Lawrence, a nationally well-known skilled on political communication and the co-author of “Hillary Clinton’s Race for the White House: Gender Politics and the Media on the Campaign Trail” and “When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina,” shelp this impact was many noticeable throughout the Republihave the right to primaries, once Trump created an outsized propercentage of the media coverage.

“He had the ability to get the tantamount of enormous proclaiming buys without having actually to spfinish a lot money,” Lawrence sassist.

For the media, this disproportionate coverage was driven even more by economics than political bias. In a competitive 24/7 news cycle, news institutions publish stories that will certainly drive website traffic. And, thanks to his preexisting fame and ability to geneprice dispute, those stories were frequently around Trump.

Did all the free press make a difference? Since this year’s Republihave the right to primaries had actually such a huge area, Trump’s capacity to stand also out in the crowd most likely played a far-reaching role in his nomination.

2. Bias, scripts and the polarization of America

Research reveals that many type of major media outlets entice partisan audiences, which mirrors political biases in their coverage. Aacquire, this phenomenon is encouraged by business: Because today’s news consumers deserve to gain the basic facts from a quick internet search, many kind of publications have actually differentiated themselves by moving from right news to conmessage and also analysis

Photo by Karly DeWees.

Unfortunately, the media’s flourishing political schisms seem to be driving polarization in the populace also.

“Selective expocertain is the tendency many of us have to seek out news sources that don’t fundamentally obstacle what we think around the world,” shelp Lawrence. “We recognize there’s a partnership in between selective expocertain and also the flourishing divide in political mindsets in this country. And that gap is plainly related to the rise of more partisan media resources.”

Aside from ideological prejudice, according to Lawrence, journalists throughout outlets additionally perpetuate biased views by distilling complicated campaigns and concerns into simplified “scripts.”

One popular election-coverage script is the “horserace” or “game frame” narrative. “We know from years of study that the mainstream media tend to see elections via the prism of competition,” said Lawrence. “Campaigns acquire covered a lot choose sporting activities events, through an emphasis on who’s winning, who’s losing, who’s up, who’s down, how they are relocating ahead or behind in the polls.”

The media likewise perpetuate character-based scripts. “For instance, in 2000, the manuscript for Al Gore was that he was a pompous bore, and also the manuscript for George W. Bush was that he wasn’t extremely smart,” sassist Lawrence.

In this year’s presidential race, the narratives that Clinton is a corrupt politician and Trump is a racist, misogynist outsider have actually dominated election coverage.

3. Social media: Echo chamber and straight line to the masses

According to a recent Pew Research Center research, 62 percent of Americans obtain their news via social media platcreates. What they could not realize is that the news they check out is greatly filtered.

“What we watch on Facebook is dictated by algorithms that decide what you view based on what you prefer and also disfavor, what you talk about and click on,” shelp SOJC Assistant Professor Nicole Dahmen, that researches and blogs about visual interaction and also social media in politics. “Rather than acquiring a diversity of perspectives that add to political discourse, we check out an echo chamber.”

On the other hand, social media gives users more straight accessibility to candidays than ever prior to. “With social media, voters may believe they have actually an intimate relationship through a candidate they will certainly more than likely never before fulfill in person,” said Lawrence.

And candidays have unmatched manage over the imperiods they existing. “Social media enable candidates a direct means by which to communicate through the voting public, thereby bypassing the news media as a gatekeeper,” Dahmales shelp.

4. A photo is worth 1,000 words

For the majority of world, visuals carry an even even more powerful influence than words on a page.

“Visual communication research study has actually displayed that images, particularly of political candidates, convey emovements, actions, realism and credibility,” sassist Dahguys. “These images form a lasting impression in the mind of the voting public.”

The photos news institutions choose to publish and such components as their size and layout can likewise influence voter perceptions — and also reveal possible bias.

“Look at how different newsfiles across the nation presented the story of the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the first female candiday from a major party,” sassist Dahmen. “Some led through a leading photograph of Hillary that positioned her in a favorable light. Some led with an image of her husband also. And various other newsrecords led through a photo of Donald Trump.”

Published images also end up being component of the permanent record preserved on the internet. “Trump may case he didn’t mock a reporter via a disability,” Dahmen shelp, “however we have proof in the create of a video and photographs showing that he did.”

5. Documents Fact-checking, polls and the self-perpetuating cycle

Damian Radcliffe, Carolyn S. Chambers Professor of, teaches SOJC students how to use Google Trends and also various other tools to discover story leads. Photo by Karly DeWees.

Once considered the leastern glamorous component of a journalist’s task, fact-checking has actually come right into vogue via help from brand-new tools that make verification quicker and also more exact.

“Organizations choose PolitiFact and also are doing good-quality that isn’t just following the new, shiny story of the day,” Lawrence said. “They’re asking challenging questions about what candidates are saying and experimentation them versus the easily accessible record. But because of selective expocertain, research study suggests fact-checks will certainly not necessarily readjust somebody’s mind.”

While fact-checkers emphasis attention on the candidates’ stands on the issues, information evaluation tools have the right to perpetuate the media’s hefty attention on the horserace.

“One of the many significant advances in the information area are devices to make predictions around the outcomes of elections,” sassist Damian Radcliffe, the SOJC’s Carolyn S. Chambers Professor of and also co-editor of “Data Inside the Global Future.” “The the majority of significant instance of this is the occupational done by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.”

Much of the information Silver crunches come from polls, among the the majority of common topics of election coverage. “Polls influence voter perceptions,” Lawrence sassist. “And we know that how candidays are doing in the polls have the right to then affect the form of coverage they acquire.”

The media flock to the front-runners. And the more coverage those candidates obtain, the higher they tfinish to climb in the polls — a dynamic that have the right to turn right into a self-perpetuating cycle.

6. Watchdogs of democracy

As of this creating, the story of the 2016 elections is not yet complete — and neither is the media’s role in it.

“Given the claims Trump has been making around rigged elections, I intend journalists to watch voting extremely closely,” shelp Lawrence. “Of course, that’s an extremely large job through so many polling places across the country.”

To challenge that challenge, ProPublica has introduced Electionland also to cover “accessibility to the ballot and problems that prevent human being from exercising their best to vote.” The SOJC is just one of 13 J-colleges nationwide participating in the job.

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“Around 85 students have actually volunteered to take part in a special newsroom on Election Day,” sassist Radcliffe, faculty lead for Electionland. “We’ll be security social media to find exciting stories of points happening across the West Coast. If we discover concerns world are talking about, we’ll attempt to verify. And if necessary, we’ll escalate them to the newsroom in New York to be explored in even more detail.”

At least one point hasn’t changed: Monitoring the worqueens of power to deliver the complete story to the civilization is still the many vital part of the journalist’s task summary.

Andra Brichacek is the SOJC Communication team’s writer and editor. She has nearly 20 years’ endure producing content for print and digital media and also has actually specialized in education given that 2008. Follow her on Twitter