Congress, the Press, and Political Accountability is the first large-scale examination of how local media outlets cover members of the United States Congress. Douglas Arnold asks: do local newspapers provide the information citizens need in order to hold representatives accountable for their actions in office? In contrast with previous studies, which largely focused on the campaign period, he tests various hypotheses about the causes and consequences of media coverage by exploring coverage during an entire congressional session.
Using three samples of local newspapers from across the country, Arnold analyzes all coverage over a two-year period--every news story, editorial, opinion column, letter, and list. First he investigates how twenty-five newspapers covered twenty-five local representatives; and next, how competing newspapers in six cities covered their corresponding legislators. Examination of an even larger sample, sixty-seven newspapers and 187 representatives, shows why some newspapers cover legislators more thoroughly than do other papers. Arnold then links the coverage data with a large public opinion survey to show that the volume of coverage affects citizens' awareness of representatives and challengers.
The results show enormous variation in coverage. Some newspapers cover legislators frequently, thoroughly, and accessibly. Others--some of them famous for their national coverage--largely ignore local representatives. The analysis also confirms that only those incumbents or challengers in the most competitive races, and those who command huge sums of money, receive extensive coverage.
"Arnold here does it all: he identifies important research questions, conducts extensive research to answer them, and interprets data carefully. This sophisticated and thoughtful study is the best yet of Congress and the press."--Choice
"Arnold sets an ambitious goal: 'This book is the first large-scale study of how local media outlets cover members of Congress.' His ultimate success exemplifies how content analysis can illuminate a subject with empirical and systematic findings. . . . This exploration constitutes a significant contribution to our understanding of Congress and the news media. . . . [The book] has a timeless feel . . . [which] seems to guarantee that readers will be learning from this book well into the future."--Robert Klotz, Perspectives on Politics
"No one has ever done anything this ambitious, data rich, or convincing on the subject of newspaper coverage of members of Congress. Not only will the book interest political scientists but it should be required reading in all journalism courses aimed at showing what good congressional coverage is and can be."--David Mayhew, Yale University, author of Electoral Realignment
"This is an excellent and important work of research. Thorough, thoughtful, and necessary, it will be indispensable to both political scientists and media scholars. There is nothing else about media coverage of Congress that even begins to compare."--Michael Schudson, University of California, San Diego, author of The Good Citizen
Table of Contents:
List of Tables and Figures ix
1. Legislators, Journalists, and Citizens 1
2. Explaining the Volume of Newspaper Coverage 29
3. How Newspapers Cover Legislators 64
4. Legislators as Position Takers 92
5. Legislators as Policy Makers 125
6. Legislators as Candidates 156
7. How Newspapers Differ 194
8. Effects of Newspaper Coverage on Citizens 221
9. The Press and Political Accountability 244
Copublished with the Russell Sage Foundation