Local News Media fails to provide voters with adequate information for November 7 Election

If voters were relying on the Grand Rapids Press or the 3 Grand Rapids based TV stations for information on candidates and ballot proposals, they will have limited information. (see data below) In many races there was a lack of information, particularly local races such as County Commissioner and State Representative. There were also limited stories on State Board of Education, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Judicial races. Even when there was a higher number of stories, as in the Governor’s race and the Senate race, there was limited information on candidate platforms or voting records. Most of the coverage was either horse race coverage or a form stenography, where reporters just provided a summary of candidate statements without verifying claims made.

TV Coverage summary

Analysis of local TV news coverage leading up to the Nov. 7 election reveals that if a viewer relied on the local TV news as their primary source on information, they would be woefully informed on the issues and candidates. In some cases, particularly with many of the ballot propositions, judicial and state representative races, the viewer would have received almost no substantive information. Approximately two thirds of all the election coverage was devoted to the Governor’s race. Much of this coverage was devoted to reporting on poll results. Little time was devoted to coverage of the candidate’s platforms, voting records, or funding sources. Nor was there any coverage of the three third party gubernatorial candidates. These results, while unfortunate, are not unusual and conform to the pattern GRIID has documented in previous election cycle studies. The one area of departure from pervious studies has been in the increased amount of political ads that ran during the news broadcast. In the three month period between the August Primary and the November election, GRIID noted about a three to one ratio in terms on air time devoted to political ads versus actual election news coverage. This became particularly acute in the two weeks proceeding Election Day, in which it was not uncommon to see as many as sixteen political ads run in one half hour news broadcast. This amount of airtime devoted to political ads far exceeded any previous election cycle in this news market, including the 2004 presidential race.

Election Resources

You can read for yourself every newspaper story that has run in this market since January 15 as well as a number of TV stories at the GRIID Election Watch Website.

More importantly, we encourage people to go to these sources for independent information on Voting Records for Congressional races or State House and State Senate races. A good, non-partisan source for information on what is on the ballot is the League of Women Voters – Voter Guide and it is important to know how much money candidates are raising, how they are spending it and who is giving it to them. Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Money in State Politics, Political Money Line

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org