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

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Ask Donald Trump and also he’ll tell you journalists wield a most power over the U.S. Political process.

It’s true the the media have actually played critical role in politics since the very first Amendment created freedom that the press as a cornerstone the American democracy. Voters need information to do educated decisions, and it’s journalists’ job to provide it come them.

But deserve to the media really transform the outcome of one election?

In enhancement to widespread voter fraud, which most experts agree would certainly be impossible to accomplish, trump is alleging the election has actually been \"rigged\" through biased media coverage. Current shifts in the media see have changed how the press interacts with candidates, campaigns and the voting public. And, at a time once trust in the media is at an all-time low, the 4th estate has come under fire from movie critics on both political parties of the aisle for its coverage that the 2016 elections.

To uncover out what the research says about media’s evolving role in the vote process, us talked to three scholars indigenous the UO college of and also Communication.

1. To cover or not to cover

Regina Lawrence, executive director of the SOJC\"s Agora Center and author of “Hillary Clinton’s race for the White House: gender Politics and the Media top top the campaign Trail,” is a country recognized professional in political communication. Picture by Schaeffer Bonner.

The first way journalists get associated in vote is by picking which candidates come cover and how much. Those choices alone have the right to have a substantial effect ~ above voter perceptions.

“As difficult as it is come believe, the biggest thing that drives elections is an easy name recognition,” said Regina Lawrence, executive, management director of the UO SOJC’s Agora Center and also George S. Turnbull Portland Center. “Research has presented that some candidates can be literally left invisible since they can not win sufficient interest indigenous the media.”

Lawrence, a nationally recognized expert on politics communication and also the co-author the “Hillary Clinton’s race for the White House: gender Politics and the Media on the project Trail” and “When the push Fails: political Power and also the News Media from Iraq come Katrina,” claimed this effect was many noticeable throughout the Republican primaries, once Trump produced an outsized relationship of the media coverage.

“He was able to obtain the indistinguishable of substantial advertising buys without having actually to spend much money,” Lawrence said.

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

Did every the totally free press make a difference? since this year’s Republican primaries had actually such a large field, Trump’s capacity to stand the end in the crowd likely played a far-reaching role in his nomination.

2. Bias, scripts and the polarization that America

Research reveals the many major media outlets entice partisan audiences, which reflects political biases in your coverage. Again, this phenomenon is urged by business: because today’s news consumers can gain the simple facts from a rapid internet search, numerous publications have differentiated themselves by changing from directly news come context and also analysis

Photo by Karly DeWees.

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

“Selective exposure is the tendency many of us need to seek out news resources that don’t fundamentally an obstacle what we believe around the world,” said Lawrence. “We understand there’s a relationship between selective exposure and the growing divide in political perspectives in this country. And that gap is clearly related to the increase of more partisan media sources.”

Aside from ideology system bias, follow to Lawrence, journalists across outlets also perpetuate biased views by distilling facility campaigns and also issues right into simplified “scripts.”

One renowned election-coverage manuscript is the “horserace” or “game frame” narrative. “We recognize from decades of research that the mainstream media often tend to watch elections v the prism that competition,” said Lawrence. “Campaigns gain covered a lot favor sports events, with focus on who winning, who’s losing, who’s up, who’s down, how they are relocating ahead or behind in the polls.”

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

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

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

According come a recent Pew Research center study, 62 percent that Americans obtain their news via social media platforms. What they can not realize is that the news they see is greatly filtered.

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

On the other hand, social media offers users much more direct accessibility to candidates than ever before. “With social media, voter may think they have an intimate connection with a candidate lock will more than likely never satisfy in person,” claimed Lawrence.

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

4. A snapshot is worth 1,000 words

For most people, visuals bring an even much more powerful influence than native on a page.

“Visual interaction research has presented that images, especially of political candidates, convey emotions, actions, realism and credibility,” claimed Dahmen. “These images kind a lasting impression in the mind of the vote public.”

The photos news organizations pick to publish and such components as their size and layout can also influence voter perceptions — and also reveal possible bias.

“Look at how various newspapers throughout the country presented the story that the nomination the Hillary Clinton together the very first female candidate native a major party,” claimed Dahmen. “Some led with a dominant photograph of Hillary that positioned her in a favorable light. Some led with photo of she husband. And other newspapers led with an image of Donald Trump.”

Published images also become part of the irreversible record preserved on the internet. “Trump may case he didn’t mock a reporter v a disability,” Dahmen said, “but we have evidence in the form of a video clip and photographs showing that that did.”

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

Damian Radcliffe, Carolyn S. Chambers Professor the, teaches SOJC students just how to use Google Trends and other devices to discover story leads. Photo by Karly DeWees.

Once taken into consideration the the very least glamorous component of a journalist’s job, fact-checking has come into vogue with assist from brand-new tools that make verification faster and an ext accurate.

“Organizations choose PolitiFact and space doing good-quality the isn’t just complying with the new, glowing story that the day,” Lawrence said. “They’re asking difficult questions about what candidates room saying and testing them against the easily accessible record. But because of selective exposure, research study suggests fact-checks will not necessarily change somebody’s mind.”

While fact-checkers focus attention ~ above the candidates’ stands on the issues, data evaluation tools deserve to perpetuate the media’s heavy attention on the horserace.

“One the the many notable advances in the data space are devices to make predictions about the outcomes the elections,” stated Damian Radcliffe, the SOJC’s Carolyn S. Chambers Professor the and also co-editor the “Data inside the worldwide Future.” “The most prominent instance 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 typical topics of choice coverage. “Polls influence voter perceptions,” Lawrence said. “And we know that how candidates room doing in the polls have the right to then influence the type of coverage castle get.”

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

6. Watchdogs the democracy

As the this writing, the story that the 2016 poll is no yet finish — and also neither is the media’s duty in it.

“Given the insurance claims Trump has actually been making around rigged elections, I intend journalists to watch voting really carefully,” stated Lawrence. “Of course, it is a very large task with so plenty of polling places throughout the country.”

To challenge that challenge, ProPublica has launched Electionland to cover “access to the ballot and also problems the prevent civilization from exercising their right to vote.” The SOJC is among 13 J-schools nationwide participating in the project.

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“Around 85 students have volunteered to get involved in a unique newsroom on election Day,” claimed Radcliffe, faculty lead because that Electionland. “We’ll be surveillance social media to find interesting story of things happening across the West Coast. If we discover issues human being are talk about, we’ll try to verify. And also if necessary, we’ll escalate them to the newsroom in brand-new York come be discover in much more detail.”

At least one point hasn’t changed: monitoring the functions of power to provide the full story to the people is tho the most important part of the journalist’s project description.

Andra Brichacek is the SOJC interaction team’s writer and editor. She has nearly 20 years’ experience creating content for print and online media and has devoted in education due to the fact that 2008. Follow her on Twitter