The general election campaign began in earnest when Barack Obama wrapped up the Democratic nomination the night of June 3. Since then, the New York Times has continued to flatter the Obama campaign with superior coverage, as shown in a story count conducted by Times Watch. Consistently, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were portrayed as racial trailblazers whose religious beliefs and patriotism (and his lack of a flag pin) came under vicious and unfair attacks by conservatives. Meanwhile, John McCain was portrayed as a stiff, out-of-touch, gaffe-prone speaker struggling to appease the right wing of his party. Between June 5 and July 5 (skipping June 4 to eliminate the pro-Obama skew from news reports of him clinching the Democratic nomination), the Times ran 90 stories on Barack Obama, compared to 57 on McCain (there was some overlap, as several stories devoted significant space to both candidates). Times Watch logged those stories one of three ways, as either positive, negative or neutral toward the respective candidate. The findings were striking: If Hillary Clinton thought she got an unfair shake from the press against Barack Obama (she did), then John McCain certainly has a legitimate bias beef against the Times. Some representative headlines:
"Many Blacks Find Hope and Joy In an Unexpected Breakthrough" -- June 5 front-page headline on Obama. "A Delegator, Obama Picks When to Take Reins" -- June 16 front-page headline. "After Attacks, Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction" -- June 18 front-page headline.
By contrast, McCain was greeting with vacillating, doubting headlines:
"McCain Extends His Outreach, but Evangelicals Are Still Wary" -- June 9 front-page headline.
"Is McCain Like Bush? It Depends on the Issue" -- June 17 front-page headline.
"Target: Barack Obama. Strategy: What Day Is It?" -- July 4 headline.
Of the 90 Obama stories, 40 (44%) were labeled as positive portrayals, with only 13 (14%) classified as negative, for a positive-negative ratio of 3:1. The remaining 37 were neutral. Of the 57 McCain stories, only 9 were positive (16%), compared to 24 negative (42%), for a positive-negative ratio of nearly 1:3. (The 24 other McCain stories were neutral.) That's almost the complete opposite of Obama's positive press.