R. Douglas Arnold is professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University. Michael J. Graetz is Justus S. Hotchkiss Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He served in the U.S. Department of Treasury from 1990 to 1992. His most recent book is Death by a Thousand Cuts (Princeton, 2005). Alicia H. Munnell is the Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College's Carroll School of Management and director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. A former member of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, she has written or edited numerous books, including Coming Up Short: The Challenge of 401(k) Plans, with Annika Sunden (Brookings, 2004).
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 coverage.