Congress, the Press, and Political Accountability is
the first large-scale examination of how local media outlets cover
members of the United States Congress. Douglas Arnold asks: do
local newspapers provide the information citizens need in order to
hold representatives accountable for their actions in office? In
contrast with previous studies, which largely focused on the
campaign period, he tests various hypotheses about the causes and
consequences of media coverage by exploring coverage during an
entire congressional session.
Using three samples of local newspapers from across the country,
Arnold analyzes all coverage over a two-year period--every news
story, editorial, opinion column, letter, and list. First he
investigates how twenty-five newspapers covered twenty-five local
representatives; and next, how competing newspapers in six cities
covered their corresponding legislators. Examination of an even
larger sample, sixty-seven newspapers and 187 representatives,
shows why some newspapers cover legislators more thoroughly than do
other papers. Arnold then links the coverage data with a large
public opinion survey to show that the volume of coverage affects
citizens' awareness of representatives and challengers.
The results show enormous variation in coverage. Some newspapers
cover legislators frequently, thoroughly, and accessibly.
Others--some of them famous for their national coverage--largely
ignore local representatives. The analysis also confirms that only
those incumbents or challengers in the most competitive races, and
those who command huge sums of money, receive extensive
Subjects: Political Science, Language & Literature
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