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Does social media make up for lack of context in political reporting?

November 5, 2012

Great look at the role “horse-race” reporting plays in election coverage. Traditionally, the criticism is that the media focuses too much on polls numbers and who is winning/losing, and not enough on the policy discussion and actual substance of the debate.

Samara, a politics and journalism research organization in Canada found different results, which are also backed by Pew Research in the US.

Pew found that, overall, this year’s election coverage has focused less on the horse-race than in the 2008 contest. According to Pew’s figures, 38 per cent of the coverage they examined was focused on campaign strategy, tactics and discussions on who was winning.

While that is good news, there remains the concern that coverage in general may not be very informative

The bad news for journalism, according to the Samara study, is how little fact checking, context or analysis was provided in the 7,500 stories it analyzed. Of those focused on government legislation, only 24 per cent were considered very informative.

I’ll admit, this is maybe a very starry-eyed view of the role social media plays in election coverage but perhaps the lack of context (especially in political stories) is made up for by the fact that every story is discussed, argued and linked to in other social media. So the context, and possibly even the fact-checking, need not necessarily originate in the story, but will be created by the follow on discussion.

This doesn’t excuse media from providing better context, of course. But it does suggest (perhaps optimistically) that the context is found elsewhere in other forms of media.

Alison Loat: Are the Media “Horse-Racing” in This Election?.

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