Thompson, Obama receive most positive TV coverage

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A new study of campaign 2008 coverage finds that Illinois Democrat Barack Obama and former "Law & Order" actor Fred Thompson, a Republican, have enjoyed much more positive coverage than their rivals.

By the same token, longtime media darling John McCain of the GOP has taken a beating in coverage, largely the result of mostly negative stories about his fundraising struggles. The study of coverage was conducted from Jan. 1-May 31 by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy.

Obama has attained rock star status on the campaign trail even though he's behind Hillary Clinton in the voter polls. Obama received positive coverage in 47% of all stories about him. But the study also found that Obama seemed to be slipping after May, with more neutral and negative stories. Forty-six percent of the stories about Thompson had been positive with only 4% negative about his candidacy.

Thompson's GOP rival McCain suffered 48% negative coverage and only 12% of what the study considered positive, mostly due to his falling behind in the polls and fund-raising. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had more negative than positive stories done about him, however, while Hillary Clinton had 38% negative and 27% positive stories. Five candidates received half of all coverage.

The media also was taken to task for focusing too much on the horse race and not enough about the issues that voters say they want to hear. The nuts-and-bolts of campaigning accounted for 63% of all coverage, while the personalities and private life of the candidates and their families added another 17%. That left only 7% for domestic policy issues and 7% for foreign policy aspects.

"All of these findings seem to be at sharp variance with what the public says it wants from campaign reporting," the study said. It looked at the major network morning and evening newscasts along with daytime and nighttime programming on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News.
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