November 27, 2006

Election Night 2006

Methodology

Methodology

The Universe

To conduct a meaningful assessment of the national news media content available to the public on election night, we studied a wide range of media outlets and programs available during that time. Eight distinct categories of news outlets were studied: online aggregators, Newspaper Web sites, network news Web sites, blogs, political Web sites, radio, broadcast television and cable television.

Overall, 32 different news outlets were captured and monitored.

Online Aggregators: We included the three top-rated news aggregators

  • Yahoo!, Google News, AOL

Blogs: We included six of the top-rated stand-along news blogs, according to Technorati:

  • Instapundit, Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, Wonkette, Drudge Report, Huffington Post

Network News-based Web sites: We included all of national TV and radio Web sites—which is six in all, those of the three broadcast networks, the three cable networks (NBC and MSNBC are combined) and NPR

  • CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Foxnews.com, ABCNews.com, CBSNews.com, n pr.com, MSNBC.com, NPR.org

Newspaper-based Web sites: The top two newspaper-based Web sites were included as well as the Web site of the largest west-coast paper and the site of a local paper with a tight Senate race:

  • NYTimes.com, Washingtonpost.com, LATimes.com, Pilotonline.com (the site of the Virginia Pilot)

Political Web sites: Web sites of two political news magazines, and one liberal and one conservative political Web sites.

  • National Review Online, The Nation Online, Campaignnetwork.org, Townhall.com

Radio

  • NPR, coded through the local affiliate, WAMU

Broadcast Television: All four network news outlets were included: (monitor 6:30 -7:30, 8-10 check top and bottom of the hour, 10:00 – 11:00)

  • ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS

Cable Television All three cable television channels.

  • Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC

Monitoring

Election coverage of the 32 outlets was monitored at the Project by a team of 14 researchers. The outlets were monitored in real-time, for the following time frames on November 7th, 2006. Note: all times are Eastern Standard.

  • Web-based outlets were monitored every 20 minutes from 2 pm. Through 11 PM EST.
  • Broadcast Network programs at three different times: During their regular evening newscast, at the top and bottom of the hour from 8 – 10 p.m., continuously during their special report from 10 – 11 p.m. In additional to live monitoring, the programs were captured and saved on DVD.
  • Cable channels were monitored continuously from 6 – 11 p.m. In additional to live monitoring, the programs were captured and saved on DVD.
  • NPR was monitored from 6 – 11 p.m. via a local member station, WAMU.

Monitoring Procedures

Researchers were assigned specific news outlets to monitor continuously during the designated time frames. Monitoring was conducted in three forms for all Web-based outlets.

First, researches began by capturing (and saving) the election home page and writing a detailed site description of the layout and features of the site.

Second, researchers refreshed their site every 20 minutes and coding at each download for specific indicators. Those indicators included:

  • Time of posting (and whether things were time stamped)
  • Content Originator: staff, wire, outside contributor
  • Topic
  • Lead Source: identifying the first source in the posting
  • Nature of Posting: Was it largely factual, analytical or opinion. Opinion was defined as interpretation that was unattributed to any source. Analysis was interpretation that was explicitly attributed to some reporting, or other basis.

Third, researches kept an electronic “diary” of the night, writing down items of note, quotes, odd incidents, etc.

Broadcast and cable outlets were monitored via steps two and three.

Coding and diary notes were verified via the captured content.