Cockfight, Horserace, Boxing Match:
Why Elections are Covered as Sport

Lessons Learned from the 2004 Campaign Coverage

Media coverage of elections, in the Philippines and elsewhere, has been criticized for its superficiality. Critics have noted the propensity of the media, particularly television, to focus on personalities rather than issues and platforms. The media, it has been said, are consumed by the horserace or cockfight aspect of the campaign. Journalists cover elections as sport: Their reporting focuses on who’s leading and who’s losing out.

Sheila S. Coronel takes a look at how the media covered the 2004 elections, in an attempt to explain why the media report on events the way they do. She examines the process in which media content is produced and the individuals-reporters as well as newspaper editors and broadcast news managers-who are responsible for producing that content. She looks at the focus of the coverage and the factors that influence the direction of election reporting, including the bias of media owners, the manipulation by the media bureaus of campaign organizations, and the drive for ratings and sales.

Yvonne T. Chua examines in greater detail the reporters who covered the 2004 campaign. She looks at their preparedness for the coverage, their attitude toward their sources and their editors, the problems they faced, and the factors that limited their independence and autonomy.

Isagani de Castro talked to the chiefs of the media bureaus of the five presidential candidates and presents in this volume their own assessment of the media coverage. They criticized “soundbite journalism,” the fixation on ratings, and the lack of editorial direction. The media, they said, abandoned their agenda-setting function and allowed themselves to be swept by the tide of events and stories manufactured by the political campaigns.

The book is available at the PCIJ office. For more information, email or call (+632) 4319204.