Beginning with the 1988 presidential election and w updated through 2004, The Nightly News Nightmare shows how network news coverage of what is arguably the nation's most important political event has declined. Through extensive analysis of news content from the 'Big Three' and Fox, acclaimed media scholars Farnsworth and Lichter compare what the candidates said with what the networks say they said and judge the disparity a nightmare. The authors go on to suggest that perhaps the candidates themselves do a better job of portraying the campaigns than those who used to be the trusted network guardians of the news. While making clear that overall coverage of the Bush-Kerry race marked an improvement compared to previous elections, Farnsworth and Lichter also point out that in other ways, things were worse.
Stephen J. Farnsworth is associate professor of political science at University of Mary Washington and a former newspaper journalist. S. Robert Lichter is professor of communication at George Mason University.