Tracking Election Coverage August 28-September 10

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The rise of a young Donald Trump was explored in the NPR special, <em>The Making Of Clinton and Trump</em>.

My office is tracking NPR's candidates coverage, online and on its newsmagazines, in response to requests from listeners. For the two weeks from Aug. 28 through Sept. 10, NPR's disproportionate focus on Republican candidate Donald Trump continued.

During the period, 41 stories focused largely on Trump, 15 focused largely on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, three focused on Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and one each focused on the Green Party's Jill Stein and independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin.

Another 56 stories — a number almost equal to the total number of individual candidate stories — looked at more than one candidate or broader campaign issues.

The newsroom has previously commented on why Trump gets more coverage, as well as on the scarcity of third-party coverage.

During the most recent tracking period, many member stations aired an hour-long special, The Making Of Clinton and Trump, which was also excerpted on Weekend Edition Sunday. The special dives into the two candidates' characters and upbringing, with sound bites from people who know them well. In the case of Clinton, that included her daughter, Chelsea; no Trump family members were interviewed. Listener Mark Campanella, from Galena, Ohio, in an email to my office, wondered, "Why not get Trump's daughter to tell his story?" (Trump has two daughters, Ivanka and Tiffany.)

Julia Buckley, one of the producers of the special, told me by email, "NPR submitted multiple requests for Ivanka — and her brothers Donald and Eric. The campaign never responded to our repeated requests." (Also worth noting, again: Trump has not granted an interview to NPR during this campaign season, despite repeated requests.)

Another report that stood out in this period was the special coverage after the G-20 summit, discussing U.S.-China relations and the candidates' opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

We've previously identified fact checking as one of the best practices for NPR's campaign coverage (and the kind of story listeners say they want). The tracking period included a fact-check of Trump's speech on immigration, and two pieces on claims by both the Republican and Democratic candidates during NBC's Commander-In-Chief forum (here and here). In addition, NPR's special initiative, A Nation Engaged, themed weeks that include newsmagazine stories and on-air discussions at member stations, had pieces comparing the candidates' policies on fighting ISIS, how to deal with NATO, and their respective foreign policy outlooks.

Third-party coverage included a look at the candidates' stances on legalizing marijuana, with perspective from Johnson and Stein, as well as Trump and Clinton. Other than that piece, however, third-party candidates just trickled into the coverage last week, thanks to Johnson's "What is Aleppo?" flap, and Stein's protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which ended in a warrant for her arrest for alleged criminal mischief and trespassing.

Editorial researcher Annie Johnson contributed to this report.

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