How do the media cover political campaigns?

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One way to look at answering this question is to realize that different forms of media cover issues in different ways. These days, most media have an electronic or digital component; even print newspapers and magazines tend to have websites that are accessible 24 hours a day. There are television news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and FOX News that run news basically around the clock, and in the event of a breaking story, will pre-empt other programs to cover news, including news related to political campaigns. Most of these news networks feature intensive analysis of political news as well, with some programs devoted to this. Major networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS also have news programs that cover political news, including they rightly news broadcasts, morning talk shows that feature news (such as The Today Show), and evening documentary programs covering in-depth news stories (such as ABC's 20/20, or CBS' 60 Minutes). There are also radio networks that provide news coverage and analysis, such as National Public Radio and its affiliates, and these stations will also sometimes offer breaking immediate news coverage.

The so-called "24-7 news cycle" is a distinctively contemporary phenomenon that allows consumers to access news coverage virtually anytime they want, because all forms of news media are available via digital platforms on the internet, and so many people use smartphones and tablets equipped with wireless internet access. Added to this easy electronic access, social media provides networking for people to share news stories and links with one another, and this can sometimes affect the news coverage itself, particularly if a story "goes viral" or gets shared in a widespread and rapid way, which can happen via social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or Instagram. Politicians and their campaign managers are aware of how important this rapid-fire news cycle can be, and utilize social media and news media coverage to their advantage wherever possible.


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The media will cover political campaigns extensively. We are able to see that right now with the coverage of the 2016 election for President.

The media will cover the debates held between the candidates. They will analyze what is said to determine if the statements are accurate and if they are consistent with statements made previously by the candidates. The media may follow up after the debate with questions to clarify what was stated in a debate.

The media will also cover campaign events for the candidates. The media will report on what went on at these events and will report what the candidate said. The media may need to follow up on what was said or done at these campaign events.

The media serves as a watchdog to be sure the candidates are consistent and accurate in their statements and with their positions on key issues. The media will bring any issues to the public’s attention that may show a waffling on or change of positions on key issues.

The media will conduct public opinion polls to see which candidate is favored. These polls may also show how the candidate is faring among a specific group of people or if the candidate is viewed positively or negatively. The media might try to predict the outcome of an election based on these polls.

The media will cover the national conventions of the two major parties. They will report on party positions of major issues. They will examine the choice of a running mate very closely.

The media plays a very important role in covering elections.

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In general, the media cover political campaigns with a major emphasis on the “horse race” aspect of those campaigns.  Mass media outlets tend to like to focus on competition because that is something that is very easily understood by readers.  It is also something that is fairly exciting.  For this reason, the media tends not to focus as much as perhaps it should on the issues.  The media does not tend to focus on whether a certain candidate’s policies would be good for the country.  Instead, they tend to focus on whether those policy positions will help the candidate win.

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