Beginning with the 1988 presidential election and now updated through 2004, The Nightly News Nightmare shows how network news coverage of what is arguably the nation's most important political event has declined. Through extensive analysis of news content from the 'Big Three' and Fox, acclaimed media scholars Farnsworth and Lichter compare what the candidates said with what the networks say they said and judge the disparity a nightmare. The authors go on to suggest that perhaps the candidates themselves do a better job of portraying the campaigns than those who used to be the trusted network guardians of the news. While making clear that overall coverage of the Bush-Kerry race marked an improvement compared to previous elections, Farnsworth and Lichter also point out that in other ways, things were worse.
This book is a powerful reminder that network news coverage of presidential elections remains shockingly inadequate and inaccurate. The authors' evidence from content analysis leaves no doubt about their alarming conclusions. Read it and weep, and press for reforms!
William G. Mayer
No one has more interesting, high-quality data on media content than the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Now, Farnsworth and Lichter use almost twenty years' worth of that data to provide a fascinating picture of how American television has covered the last five presidential elections. Of all the contemporary books on media and presidential elections, this is the best of them.
Stephen J. Farnsworth is associate professor of political science at University of Mary Washington and a former newspaper journalist. S. Robert Lichter is professor of communication at George Mason University.
Chapter 1 List of Tables Chapter 2 Acknowledgments Chapter 3 1 U.S. Presidential Elections and Television News: Studying Media Content Chapter 4 2 A Need-to-Know Basis?: Covering Issues of Substance and the Horse Race Chapter 5 3 Who Elected You?: Candidates versus Reporters Chapter 6 4 A Plague on All Your Houses: Negativity, Fairness, and Accuracy Chapter 7 5 "Nobody Does It Better"?: The Networks versus Other Campaign News Sources Chapter 8 6 Maybe Next Year?: The Future of Campaign Coverage Chapter 9 Appendix A: Campaign Information Items Used in the Content Analysis Chapter 10 Appendix B: Internet Resources on the News Media and Presidential Elections Chapter 11 References Chapter 12 Index Chapter 13 About the Authors