Every four years, the network news machines crank themselves up to cover the presidential election campaigns. What we get is often a mix of sound bites, horserace standings, and scandals. In Campaign 2000, we also got network meltdown on election night and then, the Florida fiasco. This book looks at campaign coverage over the past four presidential elections and tracks its tailspin in terms of accuracy, balance, and overall quality and quantity. Acclaimed media scholars Farnsworth and Lichter use extensive data from the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Media and Public Affairs to document the decline of network news. Analyzing the content of over 5,800 network campaign stories and 9,500 campaign items from other sources ranging from public television to newspapers to campaign speeches, the authors compare what the candidates said with what the networks say they said and judge the disparity a nightmare. The unprecedented breadth and depth of the evidence allow Farnsworth and Lichter to shatter old myths and shift the terms of the debate about the relationship between news and newsmakers. Proposing sweeping reforms affecting the news organizations, the political process, and the candidates themselves, the authors take media analysis to an unprecedented level. As they indisputably demonstrate, the old order is gone, but what replaces it may make it tough to sleep at night for those who care about the news.
Teachers of courses on campaigns and the media in politics will find The Nightly News Nightmare useful for engaging their students in discussions about timely and important topics related to news coverage.
As we get deeper into campaign season the media companies would do well to take some of this book's [other] criticism's to heart.
If you are looking for a concise description of news trends in recent presidential elections, this book is an easy choice.
Overall, this study is illuminating, compellingly presented, and scary—but frightening only if changes in the way media cover campaigns are not made.
Journal Of Communication
The Nightly News Nightmare is a treasure trove of data, trenchant criticisms of the status quo, and intelligent prescriptions for imporvement . . . should be on every political communication scholar's bookshelf.
This would be a good read for any television journalist or student of TV journalism.
At last, the careful documenting of the decline and fall of the TV networks' coverage of presidential elections. Farnsworth and Lichter give us the evidence we need to judge how Jennings, Rather, and Brokaw will report the next campaign. Now you be the jury!
Larry J. Sabato
Be afraid! Be very afraid!
The Nightly News Nightmare is destined to become a classic text of its genre that non-academic readers will enjoy as much as professional scholars and political specialists.
A gold mine of data collected by the Center for Media and Public Affairs over the course of the four presidential election cycles from 1988 to the present. Scholars, practitioners, and political observers will be delighted at the prospect of a long-term analysis of these data. The book is written in a lively, yet serious, style that will engage nonacademic readers with a general interest in politics and campaigns.
Stephen J. Farnsworth is associate professor of political science at Mary Washington College and a former newspaper journalist. S. Robert Lichter is professor of communication at George Mason University, where he directs the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media research organization.
Chapter 1 U. S. Presidential Elections and Television News: Studying Media Content Chapter 2 A Need to Know Basis? Covering Issues of Substance and the Horse Race Chapter 3 Who Elected You? Candidates versus Reporters Chapter 4 A Plague on All Your Houses: Negativity, Fairness and Accuracy Chapter 5 "Nobody Does it Better"? The Networks versus Other Campaign News Sources Chapter 6 Maybe Next Year? The Future of Campaign Coverage Chapter 7 Appendix