How do news organizations cover the issues brought up in presidential debates?
The Annenberg Public Policy Center is teaming up with Internet Archive, a digital library with access to books, movies and archived web pages, to answer that question.
Using data about the debates and subsequent TV news reports collected by Internet Archive, the APPC will develop research surveys to “better understand how television covers the debates and what voters learn from the coverage of issues such as the economy, healthcare, immigration, and education,” according to an Annenberg statement.
“In joining forces, the Internet Archive brings technical expertise in archiving and computer-assisted analysis of TV news content,” the statement added, “while the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania brings decades of experience in public-opinion surveys and communication scholarship on presidential debates.”
Nancy Watzman, managing editor of the television section of Internet Archive, said voters do learn about election issues from the debates, and her organization and the APPC are both interested in learning more about how they get that information.
"[The APPC] are actually the experts, frankly, on that end of it, how people interpret debates,” she said. “What we bring to the equation is we’ve got the technology to provide the data that they haven’t been able to get at before.”
Along with the pre-existing library of information, Internet Archive also has a new technology called Duplitron which assists in the collaboration with the APPC.
Duplitron “is an audio fingerprinting tool where we can identify identical segments of video,” Watzman explained. “What we can do is take the debate, we can make a fingerprint of it and then we can see which parts of the fingerprint are repeated by TV news stations and turn that into data.”
This tool allows researchers to determine which aspects of the debates are covered by news reports.
“News reports on debates affect how voters learn about issues,” Watzman added. “It’s not just what they report about, it’s what they leave out.”
Already, media outlets are utilizing data collected by Television Archive about the presidential debates. The New York Times recently used their data to create a visualization showing that trade, ISIS, Donald Trump’s tax returns, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, cyberattacks and women’s issues were the topics most reported on by CNN, FOX and MSNBC following the first presidential debate.
Annenberg has also released results from a research survey following the first debate. According to an Oct. 7 press release, “The Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) online sample of more than 2,500 debate viewers before and after the first presidential debate on Sept. 26 found that a significantly greater number knew post-debate that Clinton supports increasing the minimum wage.”
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