P2000.
Occasional Reports, Notes and Commentaries on the Road to the White House
Newspaper Coverage of the Presidential Primary Debates
 by Eric M. Appleman
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During the five month period from Oct. 22, 1999 to March 2, 2000 the presidential candidates participated in 22 televised debates and head-to-head forums (13 Republican and 9 Democratic events). 

Typically at these events, two or three hundred reporters crowd into the media filing center at the debate site, watch the debate on TV monitors and pound out their stories.  Occasionally during the debate, staffers from one or another of the campaigns may circulate among the scribes distributing paper to support a point made by their candidate.  After the debate, top campaign staff and surrogates hold court around the edges of the room, putting their spin on what has just transpired; the candidates themselves, or at least some of them, also put in an appearance at the front of the room to offer reactions.  In terms of photographs, immediately before and after the debate, a pool consisting of a dozen or so photographers from top national news organizations and from  the local paper or papers is escorted in to take pictures.  The stories are then filed and the photos transmitted.

The next morning, at breakfast or on the way to work, the informed citizen leafs through his or her newspaper.  How have the editors played the debate?  Is it given a prominent place on page one with a photo, or is it relegated to the back pages with no photo?  In addition to the article on the debate itself, is there other coverage such as a separate article on the scene outside the debate or on citizens' reactions to the debate; are there excerpts?  There are many different possibilities for photo coverage: the candidates chatting or posing on the stage before or after the debate; a medium close up of two or three candidates in an exchange during the debate; separate shots of each of the candidates; a wide shot showing the look of the candidates on the set; perhaps an image of a prominent person or persons in the audience; or of the activities outside the debate; sometimes there will be candidate photos from earlier in the day. 

The prominence and number of column inches a paper gives to a particular debate will of course depend on the news of the day.  If the debate happened locally or in state it may receive more coverage than otherwise (and if the news organization sponsored the debate it will likely receive extensive coverage). 
 
Major Candidate Forums
New Hampshire
Oct. 22, 1999
The New Hampshire Primary Debate Partnership--NHPTV, NECN and the Union Leader. "Republican Presidential Forum" at NHPTV in Durham, NH.
New Hampshire
Oct. 27, 1999
WMUR-TV and CNN. "First in the Nation: A New Hampshire Town Meeting" (Democrats) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
New Hampshire
Oct. 28, 1999
WMUR-TV and CNN. "First in the Nation: A New Hampshire Town Meeting" (Republicans) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
Arizona
Nov. 21, 1999
Arizona Republican Party and the Associated Students of ASU. Republican debate at ASU in Tempe, AZ.
New Hampshire
Dec. 2, 1999
WMUR-TV and FOX News Channel. "The Republicans: A New Hampshire Forum" at WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH.
Arizona
Dec. 6, 1999
Arizona Republican Party and CNN. "CNN Election 2000 Special: The Arizona Republican Primary Debate" at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix, AZ.
Iowa
Dec. 13, 1999
WHO-TV. "The Iowa Debate" at the Civic Center in Des Moines, IA.
New Hampshire
Dec. 17, 1999
ABC "Nightline." "First in the Nation: A New Hampshire Town Meeting" (Democrats) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
Washington,DC
Dec. 19, 1999
NBC "Meet the Press." Democratic debate at NBC in Washington, DC.
New Hampshire
Jan. 5, 2000
The New Hampshire Primary Debate Partnership--NHPTV, NECN and the Union Leader. "NH Democratic Primary Debate" at UNH in Durham, NH.
New Hampshire
Jan. 6, 2000
The New Hampshire Primary Debate Partnership--NHPTV, NECN and the Union Leader. "NH Republican Primary Debate" at UNH in Durham, NH.
South Carolina
Jan. 7, 2000
South Carolina Republican Party (broadcast by WIS-TV and MSNBC). Republican debate.
Iowa
Jan. 8, 2000
Des Moines Register "Des Moines Register Presidential Candidates Debate" (Democrats) at IPTV in Johnston, IA.
Michigan
Jan. 10, 2000
Michigan Republican Party, Calvin College, WOOD TV-8 (NBC) and Kent County Republican Committee. Republican debate at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.
Iowa
Jan. 15, 2000
Des Moines Register "Des Moines Register Presidential Candidates Debate" (Republicans) at IPTV in Johnston, IA.
Iowa
Jan. 17, 2000
The Brown & Black Forum (group chaired by State Rep. Wayne Ford and Ila Plasencia). "Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum" in Des Moines, IA.
New Hampshire
Jan. 26, 2000
WMUR-TV and CNN. "First in the Nation: The New Hampshire Debates"--Democrats at WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH.
New Hampshire
Jan. 26, 2000
WMUR-TV and CNN. "First in the Nation: The New Hampshire Debates"--Republicans at WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH.
South Carolina
Feb. 15, 2000
South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee (BIPEC) and CNN. Republican presidential debate at Seawells in Columbia, SC.
New York
Feb. 21, 2000
Time and CNN. Democratic debate at Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY.
California
March 1, 2000
Los Angeles Times and CNN. "Los Angeles Times/CNN Presidential Debates"--Democrats at the L.A. Times building in Los Angeles, CA.
California
March 2, 2000
Los Angeles Times and CNN. "Los Angeles Times/CNN Presidential Debates"--Republicans at the L.A. Times building in Los Angeles, CA.

Looking at debate coverage in a number of newpapers, is it possible to determine whether some of these debates were more newsworthy than others? If so, what factors make a debate newsworthy?


 

Copyright 1999, 2000  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.
 
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