Behind the headlines: Making news in Campaign 2000

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


News, Campaign 2000, Election coverage, Media, Political communication

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


While there is a large body of research on campaign news coverage that examines the content in the media, there is little in the academic field that examines the factors that shape news content. This study, which draws on several areas of media sociology research, examines journalists' beliefs about their role in the election process and the routines of campaign reporting to help determine why news coverage looks the way it does.

The research is based on interviews with 19 reporters who covered the United States presidential election in 2000 and on three weeks of participant observation in the field--during the primaries, at the Republican and Democratic national conventions, and in the fall of 2000.

The study finds that those who cover presidential politics believe that they have a duty to provide their readers with stories about the context of the campaign and the character of the candidates, which they think will provide more information for electoral decisions. They also see themselves as being in a struggle with the candidates and the campaign staffs for control over what is covered, and they are wary of being manipulated by the campaigns.

Journalists traveling with a presidential candidate are constrained by the pressure to follow the rest of the pack and the campaign's use of press pools. Campaign staffs also try to control the message that reaches the voters by limiting the access that the national press corps has to the candidate. The undercurrent of tension between the campaign staffs and journalists results in the traveling press corps adopting an increasingly adversarial role in relation to the campaign.


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