Campaign Coverage: The Final Report: Freedom Forum Media Studies Center Issues Its Fourth Report on Media Coverage of the Presidential Campaign

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Freedom Forum Media Studies Center issues its fourth report on media coverage of the presidential campaign

NOW THAT THE presidential election of 1992 is behind us, media watchers can turn their analysis and critique of the press's performance.

In its fourth, and final, report on 1992 campaign coverage, the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University concluded that coverage of the 1992 campaign generally was thoughtful, flexible and resourceful, especially after the "highly disappointing and flawed performance in 1988."

In an introductory "Memo to the Press," center director Everette E. Dennis pointed out that "It was widely accepted that the recession and various cutbacks in print and broadcast news divisions would lead to lower quality public affairs coverage and less news coverage overall. The opposite was true."

After a midcampaign reassessment of their work, the news media made some significant improvements, according to Dennis. They include:

* Avoiding predictable visual opportunities and sound bites.

* Greater reader- and viewer-oriented coverage.

* Less emphasis on horse-race polls.

* More attention to the dynamics and process of the campaign.

* Advertising watches on television and in print.

* Continuity in covering personal integrity issues.

* Fact-checking of claims made by candidates.

* Flexibility in handling unexpected events.

* Use of new technologies.

* Expanding and modifying news coverage to build candidates' use of direct-access media, such as talk shows.

The 182-page study, which includes detailed analytical and historical reports, found a number of features that characterized coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates, as well as local and national Election Night reporting.

When it came to the debates, the center found that coverage "provided very little information that was different from what audiences learned through watching the events themselves. …