October 31, 2000

The Last Lap

Comparative Stories

In the second and third weeks—as the debates began to dominate coverage—journalists tended to write more stories that looked at the two candidates comparatively rather than writing stories that were predominantly about Gore or Bush alone. These comparative stories eventually made up nearly half of all the coverage.

Interestingly, these pieces, often editorials or columns, were more likely than news stories to make clear how the subject matter actually impacted citizens (30% versus 21% of Gore dominated stories and 27% of Bush stories). Even then, seven-in-ten of these comparative stories were about politics rather than policy or character. Only 5% of them were character related, and 26% policy related.

Comparative stories were also much more likely than single-candidate stories to be written around broader concepts such as the nature of the electorate (18% versus 4% of Bush stories and 6% of Gore stories).