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TV Faculty Member Steve Voorhees Presents
Media Analysis of Presidential Debates at D.C. Conference


West Windsor, N.J. – On August 10, Associate Professor Steve Voorhees (Television and Digital Film) presented a paper at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Washington, D.C.  The title of his research was “CNN’s coverage of the 2012 Presidential Debates: Balanced or liberally biased?”

In his paper abstract, Voorhees explains: “Following the 2012 presidential election season, conservatives charged cable news networks CNN and MSNBC as being liberally biased in their news coverage.  While MSNBC openly acknowledges its progressive leanings, CNN has maintained a commitment to balanced journalism.  This study conducted a comparative rhetorical and semiotic analysis of both networks’ coverage following the three highly watched presidential debates to see if CNN held to its balanced commitments.  Results indicated a wide separation between the two networks, with CNN at times being too balanced in their coverage.”

Associate Professor Steve Voorhees is pictured at the AEJMC conference in Washington, D.C. In his display, he outlines his research on 2012's presidential debate coverage by CNN and MSNBC.

Voorhees notes that his conclusion stemmed from particular segments where CNN equally represented each candidate without taking “expected coverage” into consideration.  (Expected coverage means that balanced journalism need not always be simply counting the number of appearances or mentions of each candidate, but rather takes into consideration the context of events.)  As part of its debate coverage, CNN produced a segment called “Reality Check,” where they examined candidates’ claims and proved them true or false. 

“Not only did CNN not reveal the process by which they decided to analyze certain claims, but the network also proved each candidate right and wrong an equal number of times each night,” Voorhees said.  “Thus, I argue the network was too balanced with these segments because viewers will never know which candidate was actually more truthful during the debates.”

Voorhees, who completed his research as part of his doctoral studies at Rutgers University, presented the paper in a poster session where attendees interested in his topic could approach him and discuss his research.  He reports that the conference drew a large national crowd and he was kept busy speaking with professors, graduate students, and industry professionals about his study. 

AEJMC is an international nonprofit organization of more than 3,700 educators, students, and practitioners from around the globe. Founded in 1912, it is the oldest and largest alliance of journalism and mass communication educators and administrators at the college level. 

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