Center for Ethics in Journalism

2016 Presidential Election Class Project

Method Summary

Students in the Ethics in Journalism class evaluated 2016 Presidential Election media from Labor Day to Election Day during the Fall 2016 semester. The students were divided into nine groups according to the sequences they declared as journalism majors.

The Editorial/News students analyzed headlines from the front pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the New York Times and USA Today. The Broadcast Radio and TV students analyzed the opening news segments from the nightly newscasts of CBS and NBC. Finally, the Advertising and Public Relations students analyzed tweets from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The class as a whole analyzed political ads produced by and for the two candidates.

The students were asked to evaluate if the different types of media had a positive, negative or neutral tone. They were also asked to record if these media delved into issues relating to race, ethnicity or diversity. At the end of the project students reviewed the prominent journalism ethics codes and gave feedback about the ethical conduct of the media professionals affiliated with the 2016 presidential campaign, from working reporters to advertisers.

Social Media

Findings:

Students found that Hillary Clinton tweeted more than Donald Trump. Though Clinton had more than twice as many positive tweets as Trump did, she also had double the amount of negative tweets.

“Our main ethical concern was that, based on Twitter, the candidates relied on negative material, which occasionally included false content that went without being fact-checked. Trump’s Twitter was generally positive & he ended up winning so this may show a correlation between victory & social media persona.”

-Group 6

Total Tweets

Tweets

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 687 36.81% 36.81%
  • Negative – 700 37.51% 37.51%
  • Neutral – 479 25.66% 25.66%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 106 5.68% 5.68%

Tweets

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 270 31.29% 31.29%
  • Negative – 336 39.06% 39.06%
  • Neutral – 254 29.53% 29.53%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 12 1.39% 1.39%

Print Media

Findings:

Students found that Trump was the subject of nearly a third more front-page stories by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the New York Times, and USA Today than Clinton. Both candidates received about the same amount of positive coverage collectively by the three newspapers. Clinton was the subject of just one more positive story overall. In contrast, Trump was the subject of twice as many negative news stories as his opponent.

“All of the newspapers had biased moments toward both candidates, but overall their intent with news stories produced fair and balanced coverage of the campaign/election.”

-Group 1

Total Articles

Articles

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 6 22.22% 22.22%
  • Negative – 5 18.51% 18.51%
  • Neutral – 16 59.25% 59.25%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0% 0%

Articles

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 3 8.57% 8.57%
  • Negative – 13 37.14% 37.14%
  • Neutral – 19 54.28% 54.28%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0% 0%

Total Articles

Articles

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 8 21.62% 21.62%
  • Negative – 9 24.32% 24.32%
  • Neutral – 20 54.05% 54.05%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0% 0%

Articles

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 9 16.98% 16.98%
  • Negative – 21 39.62% 39.62%
  • Neutral – 23 43.39% 43.39%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0% 0%

Total Articles

Articles

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 1 4.16% 4.16%
  • Negative – 8 33.33% 33.33%
  • Neutral – 15 62.5% 62.5%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 2 8.33% 8.33%

Articles

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 2 7.40% 7.40%
  • Negative – 10 37.03% 37.03%
  • Neutral – 15 55.55% 55.55%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0% 0%

Broadcast Media

Findings:

Students found that Trump received about two-thirds more coverage by CBS and NBC than Clinton. However, he was also featured in nearly six times more negative news segments by the two networks than his opponent. In contrast, the networks collectively featured three times more positive news segments about Clinton than Trump.

“Both CBS and NBC had an overwhelming amount of more negative stories about Trump than for Clinton. However, we were analyzing the newscasts when the video surfaced of Trump and Billy Bush.
We believe that the media seemed to indict Trump over negative news, and when Hillary had negative news it was simply presented as news. They weren’t biased against Trump as much as they were biased for Hillary.”

-Group 2

News Segments

News Segments

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 5 29.41% 29.41%
  • Negative – 4 23.52% 23.52%
  • Neutral – 8 47.05% 47.05%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 1 3.4% 3.4%

News Segments

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 2 8.69% 8.69%
  • Negative – 15 65.21% 65.21%
  • Neutral – 6 26.08% 26.08%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 1 4.34% 4.34%

News Segments

News Segments

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 4 40% 40%
  • Negative – 1 10% 10%
  • Neutral – 5 50% 50%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 1 10% 10%

News Segments

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 1 4.54% 4.54%
  • Negative – 17 77.27% 77.27%
  • Neutral – 4 18.18% 18.18%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0% 0%

Advertisements

Findings:

Overall, Clinton ran almost twice as many positive ads as Trump, but nearly a third more negative ones, too.

“There seemed to be quite a bit of negativity surrounding the media, both through Twitter and television ads, throughout this Presidential election. The number of posts that were either attacking the other candidate or defending the attacks was abundant. Hopefully, this trend of negativity surrounding the media does not take root in the future.”

-Group 9

Total Ads

Ads

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 13 38.23% 38.23%
  • Negative – 18 52.94% 52.94%
  • Neutral – 3 8.82% 8.82%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 16 47.05% 47.05%

Ads

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 7 31.81% 31.81%
  • Negative – 14 63.63% 63.63%
  • Neutral – 1 4.54% 4.54%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 3 13.63% 13.63%

The Center for Ethics in Journalism would like to award credit to the students who worked on this project:
Cameron Ariola, Leeann Blahitka, Kristi Bradshaw, Megan Cordell, Cortlyn Dees, Shelby Dye, Elizabeth Engleman, John Erwin, Rebbeca Fabik, Claudia Garcia, Caitlin Gordon, Ava Graham, Haley Hauk, Hannah Henderson, Shannon Hocker, Karen Hudson, Nikolaus Koch, Allison Kopp, Sarah Laborde, Caitlin Leggett, Jodie Lofits, Elizabeth Lotspeich, Regan Myers, Jamie Napier, Anna North, Jasmine Nunez, Alexandra Ponte, Haley Rolf, Aubrey Schumacher, Kinley Shotts, Nathaniel Smallwood, Kelsey Smith, Nancy Smith, Chloe strickland, and Reece Walker

The Center would also like to thank to following people for their hard work and assistance with assembling this project: Andra Parrish Liwag, Bobbie Foster, Christi Welter, Morgan Bibbs and Nathan Smith.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump photo credit The Washington Post