Hiding in Plain Sight, From Kennedy to Brown
The sample for this study was made up of stories related to the Massachusetts Senate race collected from the LexisNexis database that were published from September 1- December 8, 2009 and January 6-19, 2010.
The sample included all stories about the Senate race available on LexisNexis from four outlets.
PEJ conducted extensive searches in the LexisNexis database for each outlet in order to gather all of the relevant articles. Stories were collected using a two-step process.
First, broad search terms were used to retrieve a large amount of stories that may have been about the Senate race. The determination was made that it was better to use broader search terms that would result in a larger group of stories to sort through than more detailed search terms that might have resulted in the accidental exclusion of relevant stories.
For the two Boston newspapers, all stories that included the word “Senate” from the dates included in the study were collected. For the two national outlets, the terms “Senate” and “Massachusetts” were used.
In addition, another search was conducted for all four outlets that included the names of all of the prominent candidates who were running (or considered running). This was done to make sure that any stories that focused on a candidate but did not mention the word “Senate” would not have been missed.
Second, members of PEJ’s staff went through each story that was retrieved to determine if it was about the Senate race. A story was considered to be about the race if 50% or more of the text was focused on the campaign. All other stories that were not about the race were then discarded.
This resulted in a sample of 557 stories.
Since the subject of the study was solely the campaign for the Massachusetts Senate seat, stories about the temporary replacement for the position and the rules that governed the process were not included in the sample.
In addition to housekeeping variables (such as date, source and dateline), each story was coded for the following variables:
Story Format measures the type and origin of stories
Tone measures whether a story is constructed in a way, via use of quotes, assertions or innuendo, that results in positive, neutral or negative coverage for a given candidate. Tone was tracked for the following candidates:
Coding for Tone