Story by Andra Brichacek. Video through Ryan Lund and also Aaron Nelson. Photos through Schaeffer Bonner and also Karly DeWees.

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Ask Donald Trump and he’ll tell girlfriend journalists wield a most power over the U.S. Politics process.

It’s true that the media have actually played an essential role in politics because the an initial Amendment created freedom of the press as a cornerstone of American democracy. Voter need details to make educated decisions, and it’s journalists’ task to provide it to them.

But can the media really alter the outcome of one election?

In enhancement to widespread voter fraud, which most professionals agree would be difficult to accomplish, trump is alleging the election has actually been "rigged" through biased media coverage. Recent shifts in the media landscape have changed how the press interacts through candidates, campaigns and also the voting public. And, at a time as soon as trust in the media is in ~ an all-time low, the fourth estate has actually come under fire from critics on both political parties of the aisle because that its coverage of the 2016 elections.

To find out what the research study says about media’s evolving duty in the vote process, us talked to three scholars native the UO college of and Communication.

1. Come cover or no to cover

Regina Lawrence, executive, management director that the SOJC"s Agora Center and author the “Hillary Clinton’s race for the White House: gender Politics and also the Media ~ above the campaign Trail,” is a country recognized experienced in political communication. Photo by Schaeffer Bonner.

The first way journalists get connected in vote is by picking which candidates come cover and how much. Those choices alone deserve to have a substantial effect top top voter perceptions.

“As difficult as the is to believe, the greatest thing that drives elections is straightforward name recognition,” claimed Regina Lawrence, executive director the the UO SOJC’s Agora Center and George S. Turnbull Portland Center. “Research has displayed that part candidates can be precise left invisible because they can’t win enough interest native the media.”

Lawrence, a country recognized expert on politics communication and also the co-author of “Hillary Clinton’s gyeongju for the White House: gender Politics and also the Media ~ above the campaign Trail” and “When the press Fails: politics Power and the News Media indigenous Iraq to Katrina,” said this result was most noticeable throughout the Republican primaries, as soon as Trump created an outsized ratio of the media coverage.

“He to be able to gain the identical of enormous advertising buys without having actually to spend lot money,” Lawrence said.

For the media, this disproportionate coverage to be driven an ext by economics than political bias. In a compete 24/7 news cycle, news establishments publish stories that will certainly drive traffic. And, many thanks to his preexisting call and capability to create controversy, those stories were often around Trump.

Did every the complimentary press do a difference? since this year Republican primaries had actually such a huge field, Trump’s ability to stand out in the crowd most likely played a significant role in his nomination.

2. Bias, scripts and the polarization that America

Research reveals the many major media outlets tempt partisan audiences, which reflects political biases in your coverage. Again, this phenomenon is encouraged by business: due to the fact that today’s news consumer can gain the simple facts native a quick internet search, countless publications have differentiated themselves by shifting from right news to context and also analysis

Photo through Karly DeWees.

Unfortunately, the media’s cultivation political schisms it seems ~ to be driving polarization in the populace as well.

“Selective exposure is the propensity many that us have to seek the end news resources that don’t fundamentally an obstacle what we believe about the world,” said Lawrence. “We understand there’s a relationship between selective exposure and also the growing divide in political perspectives in this country. And that space is plainly related come the climb of an ext partisan media sources.”

Aside from ideological bias, according to Lawrence, journalists across outlets additionally perpetuate biased views by distilling complicated campaigns and also issues right into simplified “scripts.”

One popular election-coverage manuscript is the “horserace” or “game frame” narrative. “We recognize from years of research study that the tendency media have tendency to watch elections v the prism the competition,” claimed Lawrence. “Campaigns gain covered a lot choose sports events, with an emphasis on who winning, who’s losing, who up, who’s down, how they are moving ahead or behind in the polls.”

The media also perpetuate character-based scripts. “For example, in 2000, the script for Al Gore was the he to be a pompous bore, and the script for George W. Shrub was the he wasn’t very smart,” stated Lawrence.

In this year presidential race, the narratives the Clinton is a corrupt politician and also Trump is a racist, misogynist outsider have overcame election coverage.

3. Social media: Echo chamber and also direct line to the masses

According to a recent Pew Research center study, 62 percent of Americans gain their news via society media platforms. What they can not establish is the the news they see is heavily filtered.

“What we watch on facebook is dictated by algorithms the decide what girlfriend see based upon what friend like and also dislike, what you comment on and click on,” stated SOJC Assistant Professor Nicole Dahmen, that researches and blogs around visual communication and also social media in politics. “Rather than acquiring a diversity the perspectives that contribute to political discourse, we watch an echo chamber.”

On the various other hand, society media gives users more direct accessibility to candidates than ever before. “With social media, voter may believe they have actually an intimate relationship with a candidate castle will most likely never satisfy in person,” said Lawrence.

And candidates have actually unprecedented manage over the photos they present. “Social media permit candidates a direct method by i beg your pardon to interact with the vote public, in order to bypassing the news media as a gatekeeper,” Dahmen said.

4. A picture is precious 1,000 words

For most people, visuals carry an even more powerful influence than indigenous on a page.

“Visual communication research has shown that images, especially of politics candidates, convey emotions, actions, realism and also credibility,” claimed Dahmen. “These images kind a lasting impression in the psychic of the poll public.”

The photos news organizations choose to publish and such determinants as their size and layout can also influence voter awareness — and reveal feasible bias.

“Look at how various newspapers throughout the nation presented the story of the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the very first female candidate indigenous a significant party,” said Dahmen. “Some led through a leading photograph of Hillary the positioned she in a favorable light. Some led with photo of she husband. And other newspapers led with an image of Donald Trump.”

Published images likewise become component of the permanent record kept on the internet. “Trump may case he no mock a reporter with a disability,” Dahmen said, “but we have proof in the kind of a video clip and photographs reflecting that the did.”

5. Data Fact-checking, polls and also the self-perpetuating cycle

Damian Radcliffe, Carolyn S. Chambers Professor the, teaches SOJC students how to use Google Trends and other tools to find story leads. Picture by Karly DeWees.

Once taken into consideration the least glamorous part of a journalist’s job, fact-checking has actually come into vogue with aid from brand-new tools that make verification much faster and much more accurate.

“Organizations prefer PolitiFact and are doing good-quality that isn’t just adhering to the new, shining story the the day,” Lawrence said. “They’re asking challenging questions around what candidates are saying and also testing them against the accessible record. But due to the fact that of selective exposure, research study suggests fact-checks will not necessarily change somebody’s mind.”

While fact-checkers emphasis attention ~ above the candidates’ stands on the issues, data analysis tools have the right to perpetuate the media’s heavy attention on the horserace.

“One of the many notable advances in the data room are tools to do predictions around the outcomes the elections,” said Damian Radcliffe, the SOJC’s Carolyn S. Chambers Professor the and also co-editor that “Data within the worldwide Future.” “The many prominent example of this is the work-related done by Nate silver at FiveThirtyEight.”

Much that the data silver crunches come native polls, one of the most usual topics of election coverage. “Polls influence voter perceptions,” Lawrence said. “And we recognize that how candidates space doing in the polls deserve to then influence the form of coverage lock get.”

The media flock to the front-runners. And the more coverage those candidates get, the greater they have tendency to rise in the polls — a dynamic that deserve to turn into a self-perpetuating cycle.

6. Watchdogs of democracy

As that this writing, the story of the 2016 elections is no yet finish — and neither is the media’s function in it.

“Given the insurance claims Trump has actually been making around rigged elections, I mean journalists to clock voting an extremely carefully,” stated Lawrence. “Of course, it is a very large task v so many polling places throughout the country.”

To confront that challenge, ProPublica has launched Electionland come cover “access come the ballot and problems the prevent world from exercising their ideal to vote.” The SOJC is just one of 13 J-schools nationwide participating in the project.

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“Around 85 students have actually volunteered to get involved in a special newsroom on choice Day,” stated Radcliffe, faculty lead because that Electionland. “We’ll be monitoring social media to uncover interesting story of things happening across the West Coast. If we uncover issues world are talk about, we’ll shot to verify. And if necessary, we’ll escalate them to the newsroom in brand-new York come be explored in an ext detail.”

At least one point hasn’t changed: monitoring the workings of power to deliver the full story come the civilization is still the many important part of the journalist’s task description.

Andra Brichacek is the SOJC interaction team’s writer and editor. She has practically 20 years’ experience producing content because that print and online media and has dedicated in education because 2008. Follow her on Twitter