[… this is a little bit old, but well worth thinking about. I couldn’t find an “original” posting site via Google, and found all sorts of copies reposted, so I think I’m o.k. in posting the full text. The theory espoused is provactive, at the very least, and the information included re: relative levels of positive/negative coverage is disturbing (although, admittedly, Dean’s campaign, in challenging conventional wisdom, was bound to provoke more reaction, positive and negative, than that of his opponents). —Thomas Leavitt]
THE UNMAKING OF A PRESIDENT-2004
By Carl Jensen
Howard Dean supporters across the country were surprised when they
woke up Tuesday morning, January 19, to read reports of Dean’s
unexpected third place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
Gov. Dean started 2003 with little name recognition and even less
campaign funding. Through the summer he spread the old familiar theme
of power to the people, mostly through the Internet, and Americans by
the hundreds of thousands responded with their support and dollars. We
wanted to take our country and the Democratic Party back.
Then in late 2003, the media, which had anointed Dean as the front
runner, started to attack him. By the time of the Iowa caucuses, the
polls showed him plummeting and the media’s new darling, Senator John
Kerry’s remarkable overnight turnaround even surprised the candidate
himself who gleefully declared he was the “Comeback Kerry.”
Meanwhile, the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), a
nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization in Washington, DC, which
conducts scientific studies of the news media, was monitoring the
nightly network news broadcasts that are the source of news and
information for most Americans.
The results of the CMPA study, released January 15, 2004, revealed that
Gov. Dean received significantly more negative criticism on the
network broadcasts while his Democratic presidential competitors
received significantly more positive comments. The research examined
187 stories broadcast on the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news in 2003.
Only 49 percent of all on-air evaluations of Gov. Dean in 2003 were
positive while the other Democratic contenders received 78 percent
In a follow-up study by CMPA, of the network coverage of the
candidates from January 1 to January 18, the night before
the Iowa caucuses, revealed that the networks selected Kerry and Senator
John Edwards before the Iowa voters did. As you may recall, Kerry
finished first with 38% of the vote; Edwards ranked second, just below
Kerry, with 32%; and Dean managed only a poor third with 18% of the
vote. During the two-and-a-half week period leading up to the Iowa
caucuses, there had not been a single negative word uttered about
Edwards by the three networks (100% favorable coverage) while nearly
all, 96%, of the comments about Kerry were positive.
However, Gov. Dean’s coverage during those first 18 days of January
was significantly less glowing with 42% unfavorable on-air
What happened in the campaign that inspired the media to turn on Dean
and throw their support to uninspiring Kerry?
A clue may be found in a story published in the Washington Post on
November 19, 2003.
The Post reported that, “In an interview Monday night (11/17/03), Dean
unveiled his idea to ‘re-regulate’ utilities, large media companies
and businesses offering employee stock options. He also favors broad
protections for workers, including the right to unionize.”
Also on November 19, the Associated Press reported, “Dean, the
former Vermont governor, said Tuesday that if elected president, he
would move to re-regulate business sectors such as utilities and media
companies to restore faith after corporate scandals such as Enron and
Dean’s idea of re-regulating two out-of-control business sectors
produced criticism from some of his competitors and surely struck a
raw nerve within monopolistic utilities and mega-media companies.
I believe Dean’s progressive attack on monopolies helps explain why
the corporate media started piling on Dean, portraying him with the
pejorative term of the “angry candidate.”
But while this helps explain why the media went after Dean, it doesn’t
explain why they suddenly anointed Kerry as their Golden Boy.
However, it would appear that Kerry would not pose a threat to
corporate America while Dean would obviously challenge their
First, a search of Lexis Nexis, a comprehensive computer databank of
news and information, failed to find a single comment by Kerry
supporting re-regulation of media companies. In fact, Gov. Dean was
the only major candidate who ventured into no-man’s-land to criticize
media monopolies and even threaten to break them up when elected
We then discovered a newly published book by the Center for Public
Integrity(CPI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that does investigative
reporting and research on public policy issues. The book is titled,
“The Buying of the President 2004: Who’s Really Bankrolling Bush and
his Democratic Challengers – and What They Expect in Return, (Harper
According to CPI, the three largest fundraisers in the presidential
campaign at this time are Howard Dean with more than $25 million; John
Kerry with more than $20 million; and, of course, President George W.
Bush with $85.2 million (as of Sept. 30, 2003).
As has been reported, Bush plans to build a war chest of some $200
million for the election. His top major donors include financial firms
Merrill Lynch & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston, UBS Paine Webber, and
Goldman Sachs Group. The President’s top career donor is the
scandal-ridden Enron Corp.
Kerry’s top donors include Fleet Boston Financial Corp., Time Warner,
and a variety of major law firms. Time Warner, as we know, is the
world’s largest media conglomerate. Among a variety of media outlets,
it also owns Internet giant America On Line and CNN – a virtual
cheerleader for Kerry.
The research Center does not cite any major donors for Dean. As we
know, the majority of his contributors are ordinary citizens who
donate an average of $77 dollars. Dean’s “special interest group” is
the American people.
Finally, we come to a January 28, 2004, report from “The Campaign
Desk,” which produces a daily analysis of the 2004 campaign and is
sponsored by the Columbia Journalism Review at Columbia University.
The non-partisan “Campaign Desk” reported that it is concerned “when
the press singles out one candidate for the kind of mauling and piling
on by exaggeration and distortion that Dean has endured in the past
“On CNN last night, Judy Woodruff joined the mob at 10:42 p.m. when
she suggested that perhaps Dean’s lower-key post-election address in
New Hampshire means that he was ‘preparing his minions, all of his
supporters, for the fact that he may not win this nomination?’
“That’s neither fair nor journalism,” “The Campaign Desk” concluded.
There may be a limit to the piling on. When Wolf Blitzer polled his
CNN viewers on January 25, “Are the media unfairly characterizing
Howard Dean’s post-Iowa loss rally?” 89% said “Yes.”
Carl Jensen, Ph.D.
Sonoma State University,
Founder of Project Censored