Topics of New York Times Coverage of the 2004 and 2008 Presidential Campaigns
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This study content analyzed topics of New York Times coverage of the 2004 and 2008 Democratic and Republican general presidential campaigns. The functional theory of political campaign discourse, modified to examine political campaign coverage, was used as a theoretical framework. Analysis of data indicates horse race coverage was dominant in both campaigns, followed by policy and character coverage. 2008 exhibited large increases in the proportion of horse race coverage, particularly within campaign funding and expenditures coverage, at the expense of character coverage. A high, sustained presence of horse race coverage has been found in newspaper coverage of presidential campaigns from 1952 to 2008. A dominance of horse race coverage fails to reflect the nature of actual campaign messages, has been shown to distort individual voting preferences and suppress voter turnout, and is profoundly antidemocratic. Conclusions are made to journalists for reframing news stories to include greater proportions of substantive coverage.