A Northeastern study takes the measure of our controversy-driven political coverage

Illustration by Emily Judem for WGBH News

For observers of the media, there are few spectacles more dispiriting than the way the press covers presidential campaigns. Rather than digging into what really matters, such as the candidates’ experience, leadership ability and positions on important issues, reporters focus on controversies, attacks on one another, gotcha moments and, of course, polls, polls and more polls.

Now a study conducted by the School of Journalism at Northeastern University has quantified just how bad things are. Looking at about 10,000 news articles from 28 ideologically diverse news outlets published between March and October, my colleagues Aleszu Bajak, John Wihbey and I found that coverage of the Democratic candidates “tracks with the ebbs and flows of scandals, viral moments and news items.”

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