Election Tracker

We need deeper reporting and not just horserace coverage of Pete Buttigieg

The media loves a rising star and Pete Buttigieg is no exception. But is “Mayor Pete” just a flash in the pan? Time will tell, as Margaret Sullivan pointed out earlier this month, and it’s worth remembering that we’ve been here before – remember Howard Dean? Herman Cain?

According to a piece today in The Hill, Beto O’Rourke has been “eclipsed” by Buttigieg. Mayor Pete’s campaign is “cutting into” O’Rourke’s “mojo” and “stealing [his] thunder.” But is he? After looking at the extent and spike of Buttigieg’s media coverage using Media Cloud data, we found that he indeed is outpacing O’Rourke in media attention, most notably in The Washington Post, The New York Times and FOX News.

This analysis forms part of Northeastern University School of Journalism’s Storybench 2020 Election Coverage Tracker where we’re trying to illuminate this horserace coverage. It’s clear that Mayor Pete’s seeing a lot of that.

The good news is we’re already seeing some reporters looking for evidence that the media’s obsession with Buttigieg is reflected in polling or at least social media interactions. That’s a start. We hope that Buttigieg’s time in the sun will be accompanied by fervent reporting on his policy positions – especially since his website is wholly lacking in them.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are proportionally receiving a whole lot more coverage than Buttigieg in recent weeks, much of that from FOX News.

Curious about how we accessed Media Cloud and built these visualizations? We used the Media Cloud API using code like this and created the graphics using the hrbrthemes package in R Studio.

Aleszu Bajak
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