Candidate Face Time on News Networks

The NYT has compiled an interesting graphic, tracking the amount of time the news networks have devoted to interviewing each of the 2008 presidential candidates:

Candidate Face Time on News Networks Thru August 1, 2007

The rationale behind the graphic was to demonstrate that Fox News gives an inordinate amount of time to Rudy Giuliani and to argue that this is owing to his relationship with CEO Roger Ailes. As TigerHawk notes, though, that argument is largely obviated in the piece’s 34th paragraph, which shows that the disparity is entirely owing to Sean Hannity’s constantly inviting Giuliani onto his show.

TigerHawk makes some interesting observations about how the networks generally favor Democratic candidates and the implications that has for the renewed debate on the Fairness Doctrine. More interesting to me, though, is the rather wide variance between television “face time” and candidate standings in the polls.

Here are the current RealClear Politics average poll standings:

Presidential Poll Numbers RealClear Politics August 2, 2007

While Giuliani is getting a disproportionate share of time at Fox, he’s actually getting rather short shrift for the runaway frontrunner. Even more strangely, Hillary Clinton is down toward the bottom of the list despite being the clear #1 on the Democratic side while also runs like Mike Huckabee, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd are getting mega exposure.

Now, certainly, one can understand why John McCain and even Biden are getting so much time, given their prominent roles in the Senate on major issues. And sometimes sitting governors make news even though their presidential aspirations are mere fantasy. Yet I don’t recall anything particularly important going on in Arkansas that would have catapulted Huckabee to the forefront of news coverage. Nor is he a Jesse Ventura or Dennis Kucinich who gets air time simply for his entertainment value.

All told, the programming decisions reflected in the NYT chart are simply bizarre. Perhaps it reflects the relative willingness of the candidates to appear anywhere, at any time the networks call?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. David Harris says:

    Dr. Joyner, I think you hit the nail on the head. Lesser-known candidates have every reason to accept any opportunity for an appearance. Someone like Hillary Clinton is probably…you know…working.

  2. LaurenceB says:

    “TigerHawk makes some interesting observations about how the networks generally favor Democratic candidates…”

    Hmmm… NBC’s top two most viewed candidates are Edwards (D) and McCain (R). CBS’s are Obama (D) and McCain (R). ABC: McCain (R) and Edwards (D).

    That sounds like fairly even-handed coverage for the networks.

    On the other hand, Fox’s favorite candidate is Giuliani (R), followed by Thompson (R), followed by Romney (R), then Tancredo (R), then Huckabee (R), then McCain (R), then Hunter (R), and finally Kucinich (non-electable D).

    Forgive me if I draw a different conclusion than TigerHawk did.

  3. Wayne says:

    The numbers don’t indicate that much in reality. To be relevant, one would have to break down why each candidate gets that much time. It could be partly due to the networks decision. More likely it is due in greater part to some of the candidates decisions.

    Democrats don’t like Fox News and generally refuse to appear on it including debates. Hillary avoids most coverage where she doesn’t have absolute control. O’Reilly and Hannity have been begging Hillary to come on their shows and answer questions. She won’t. Other would also like he on their program but then she would have or answer questions and some won’t be given to her in advance like on Letterman.

    McCain is a media darling that many in MSM like to get on so he can bash Bush and he has been a hot community since he lost to Bush. Take the MSM darling McCain from the field and the numbers changes dramatically.

  4. Steve says:

    This study is flawed mainly because it discusses the amount of time a candidate is “INTERVIEWED” on a particular network, not how much time they appear on the network. A more appropriate study would be to combine the total amount of time dedicated to covering a particular individual, regardless of whether or not they were personally interviewed (not to mention whether the covereage was positive, negative, or neutral). I would imagine that study would probably corolate better with the poll numbers.

    The only question remaining is whether the chicken preceded the egg…

  5. M1EK says:

    You also have to consider that McCain has seen time on networks because he was/is one of the most prominent Republican senators, period. Obama, on the other side, isn’t. (Clinton is, but doesn’t seem as accomodating).

    The FoxNews discrepancy is obvious. We report on Republicans! You decide to vote for them!

  6. James Joyner says:

    The FoxNews discrepancy is obvious. We report on Republicans! You decide to vote for them!

    I suspect Wayne’s rationale is right on this one: Democrats shy away from Fox because they think it’s more conservative than the other networks. Hell, they canceled a debate because it was on Fox.

    For that matter, Romney and Giuliani hardly get any time at all at the non-Fox networks.

  7. LaurenceB says:

    “McCain is a media darling that many in MSM like to get on so he can bash Bush and he has been a hot community since he lost to Bush. Take the MSM darling McCain from the field and the numbers changes dramatically.”

    We must be talking about a different McCain. The one I’m referring to is Bush’s strongest Iraq–war advocate who steadfastly backed Bush’s immigration reform plan when other Republicans were jumping ship all around him. You know, the one who warmly embraced Bush while stumping for him during the 2004 election. Is there another McCain?

  8. Anderson says:

    Perhaps it reflects the relative willingness of the candidates to appear anywhere, at any time the networks call?

    Bingo. Note also that appearing on TV is a zero-sum project, in that one can’t spend the same hour of the day appearing on Fox and CBS.

    Thus, one reason that Repubs appear less on the networks is that so many of them are appearing so much on Fox.

  9. M1EK says:

    For that matter, Romney and Giuliani hardly get any time at all at the non-Fox networks.

    You can’t identify a significant anti-Republican bias in the other networks the way you can identify a significant pro-Republican bias with Fox. This false balance is just more of the same – at some point, you need to be honest with yourself.

  10. just me says:

    I agree that interview time isn’t the same as face time.

    Also, I think they types of interviews and especially types of reports are important. If the news tilts 80% positive to 20% positive for one candidate and 20% positive to 80% negative for another, even if the second candidate has more “face” time, it could explain poll numbers as to why one candidate is doing better than another.

  11. se7en says:

    We also can’t forget that interviews & face time are a two-way relationship between the candidate and the network.

    For example, there is NO face time of Barack Obama on FOX, because he has avoided them. I know Bill O’Reilly would love to have Barack on his show (he’s been asking for months), and many of the other big shots at FOX News.

    The numbers say almost as much about the candidates as they do the networks. We must keep that factor in mind.

  12. Derrick says:

    I suspect Wayne’s rationale is right on this one: Democrats shy away from Fox because they think it’s more conservative than the other networks.

    I’m sorry James, it’s not that Fox is more conservative, it’s that its more Republican. I doubt that Obama would have a problem sitting down with a conservative for an interview, but guys like Brit Hume, O’Reilly and Hannity show a far more Republican-bias than conservative-bias. I’m not sure that the thought of being compared to Osama and having his mike cut off is appealing.