A content analysis of Newsweek, U.S. news and world report, and Time's coverage of the 1980 presidential primaries

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Riggs, Steven F.
Popovich, Mark N.
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An investigation of Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, and Time's content emphasis in articles focusing on the 1980 presidential primary season was conducted in this study. The content emphasis was broken down into four categories: "horserace," "issues," "candidates' personal qualifications," and "other." The categories of "issues" and "candidates' personal qualifications" were combined to form the "substantive" category for the purpose of learning whether the content emphasis of the articles fell into either the "horserace" or "substantive" category.The unit of analysis for this study was the paragraph and a panel of coders was used to determine paragraph classifications. If a paragraph was classified "horserace" its emphasis was entertainment, portraying the campaign as a contest. If a paragraph was classified "substantive" its emphasis was information, concentrating on the issues of the campaign and the qualifications of the candidates.The researcher totaled the raw scores and the percentages of the categories to learn which type of content emphasis was being practiced by the magazines. To substantiate the level of significance in the differences of the raw scores the chi-square test was employed.Findings of the raw score totals in the four categories indicated that 61 percent of the 327 randomly selected paragraphs were classified as having "horserace" content emphasis, 10 percent were classified "issues," 19.3 percent were classified "candidates' personal qualifications," and 9.5 percent were classified "other." The "issues" and "candidates' personal qualifications" categories were combined and represented 29.3 percent.Chi-square tests showed that there were significantly less "substantive" paragraphs than "horserace" paragraphs overall, and Time magazine's coverage was the closest in balance between the two categories.The time period of this study was January 7, 1980 through June 16, 1980. This study also found that Newsweek had the largest amount of campaign coverage with 52 stories in 24 issues; next was Time with 41 stories in 19 issues; followed by U.S. News and World Report with 24 stories about the primary campaign and candidates in 18 issues.