With the 2020 presidential election at the center of most media outlets, students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln analyzed the coverage of both presidential candidates in a special topics course.
Students in journalism professor Maria Marron’s 2020 Election and the Media class spent this semester analyzing the media’s coverage of the presidential election between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Prior to the actual election, the students in the class made predictions for the outcome of the election. All but one student predicted a Biden victory, according to Marron.
“Overall, I think they were accurate in predicting the outcome of the election,” Marron said.
Each student chose a different media outlet — such as The New York Times or CNN — and spent the semester looking at election content, according to Marron.
“Their job was to read or listen to — in the case of Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC and so on — different news programs or different news stories and feature stories, op-eds, you name it every week, and then be able to discuss the content and write an analysis each week,” Marron said.
Maddie Grant, a junior journalism and French double major, said she analyzed articles and podcasts by National Public Radio and found that President Trump received more news coverage than Biden.
“One big thing that everyone in the class noticed was that there was an overwhelming number of coverage, specifically on Trump and less on Biden,” Grant said. “But what was really interesting was that while there was more coverage on Trump, it was way more negative.”
Craig Sullivan, a junior political science and sports media and communication double major, covered Politico Online. He said he saw Trump receiving more news coverage than Biden.
“Trump was a driving factor in the media coverage, and in Politico specifically, Trump was featured in the headline around 65% versus 35% for Joe Biden,” Sullivan said.
This course put together politics and media, which was a driving force for Sullivan to take this class.
“This class was a pretty intersection of those majors and there’s not a lot of classes in the [journalism] school right now that are kind of compatible to a political science major as well, so I thought this was kind of a nice class that fit both of my majors pretty well,” Sullivan said.
Grant said she would recommend this class in a future election year for all students, especially journalism students.
“Particularly for a journalism student, I think it’s so important to know how to cover politics and what the big mistakes are, and in general, having a better understanding of how to cover politics,” Grant said. “I think it is a really difficult subject to cover if you’re not careful and if you’re not being conscious of how you’re portraying the candidate and making sure that you’re being objective and fair.”
Marron said there are plans for more classes merging the studies of politics and the press and political communications in the future.
“I think it is particularly important to look at where we are as a society in terms of our politics, our economy, our laws, you name it,” Marron said.