Ethics in Journalism

Election Project

Method

The 2016 Presidential Election Project involved students from the Fall 2016 Ethics in Journalism class. The study covered a period that began the day after Labor Day and ran through Election Day. The students were divided into nine groups according to the sequences they declared as journalism majors. The Editorial News group analyzed the headlines on the front pages of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the New York Times, and USA Today on Monday through Friday. The Broadcast Radio/TV group analyzed opening segments from either the CBS Evening News or the NBC Nightly News on Monday through Friday. The seven Advertising/Public Relations groups analyzed every tweet from the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns. The entire class also helped analyze every TV advertisement produced by the two candidates during the fall campaign season.

The students looked at these various forms of media to determine if they had a positive or negative tilt or if they were neutral in tone and also whether they delved into issues relating to race, ethnicity, and diversity. After completing their analysis at the end of the semester, the students were also asked to review the prominent advertising, journalism, and public relations ethics codes and evaluate whether they had concerns about the ethical conduct of the journalists as well as the candidates and their campaigns.

Social Media

Findings:

Hillary Clinton tweeted more than twice as much as Donald Trump. Though Clinton had more than twice as many positive tweets as Trump, she also had double the amount of negative ones as well.

“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 36.34%
  • Negative – 700 37.037%
  • Neutral – 479 25.34%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 105 5.55%

Tweets

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 270 31.57%
  • Negative – 336 39.29%
  • Neutral – 244 28.53%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 12 1.4%

Print Media

Findings:

Trump was the subject of nearly a third more overall 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 – 8 25%
  • Negative – 9 28%
  • Neutral – 20 62.5%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 9 28%

Articles

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 9 24.95%
  • Negative – 21 51.219%
  • Neutral – 23 37.70%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0%

Total Articles

Articles

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

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

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0%

Articles

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 2 7.40%
  • Negative – 10 37.03%
  • Neutral – 14 55.55%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0%

Total Articles

Articles

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

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

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0%

Articles

Donald Trump

Republican Party

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

  • Race/Ethnicity – 0 0%

Broadcast Media

Findings:

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

Total Stories

Segments

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

  • Positive – 4 26.66%
  • Negative – 4 26.66%
  • Neutral – 7 46.66%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 1 6.66%

Segments

Donald Trump

Republican Party

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

  • Race/Ethnicity – 1 4.34%

Total Stories

Segments

Hillary Clinton

Democratic Party

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

  • Race/Ethnicity – 1 10%

Segments

Donald Trump

Republican Party

  • Positive – 0 0%
  • Negative – 17 80.95%
  • Neutral – 4 19.04%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 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%
  • Negative – 18 52.94%
  • Neutral – 3 8.82%

  • Race/Ethnicity – 16 47.05%

Ads

Donald Trump

Republican Party

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

  • Race/Ethnicity – 3 13.63%

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump photo credit The Washington Post