September 14, 2012

You might be surprised by some statistics that my assistant, Alison Coglianese, and I drew up in looking back at The Post’s coverage of the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

We counted every story, column, editorial, graphic and photo in all editions of the paper.

Both conventions, you’ll remember, ended up being three-day affairs; the GOP had to cancel its first of four scheduled days because of the threat from Tropical Storm Isaac, and the Democrats planned only three days.

And at this newspaper, which conservative readers tell me every day is “in the tank” for Barack Obama, guess who won?

The Democrats by a nose, but in only one category.

The Post published 50 bylined news stories about the Democrats’ convention, beginning with the Sunday preview in the Sept. 2 issue and continuing through Sept. 8.

It published 49 bylined stories — just one less — about the Republicans from the supplement on Aug. 26 through Sept. 1.

In most other categories — opinion columns, editorials, graphics and photos — the Republicans garnered more coverage by comfortable margins.

Thirty-seven columns were written about the GOP, 35 on the Democrats. Nine editorials were written about Republicans, four on the Democrats. In informational graphics, the Republicans got 15 to the Democrats’ 13.

And in photos there was no contest — 131 photos of Republicans were published, 119 of Democrats.

How much space was devoted to each convention? This is a tougher measurement because during the Democratic week, The Post had its huge computer breakdown the first night of the convention. That caused some stories not to be published on Wednesday, and some were reprinted on Thursday, so one might think that would add to the number of Democratic pages.

But no, not true.

The Republicans got 35 full pages of copy — that is, pages with no advertisements and with nothing but convention coverage — and 32 partial pages (including op-ed and editorial pages) during their week for a total of 67 pages. The Democrats got 31 full pages, but a few more partials, at 37, for a total of 68 published pages. In column inches, we think that the GOP edged the Democrats.

Let’s look at photos. Most photos were upbeat, attractive and complimentary of the presidential and vice presidential candidates and their families. No snark here.

The biggest category of photos for both conventions are atmospheric shots — photos of the arena, of delegates, of funny hats and signs, of protesters and balloons and color. The Post published more of these shots of Republicans than Democrats, 42 to 31.

Mitt Romney appeared in 22 photos, with 12 of them shots of just him. He had three with his wife, Ann, one with his grandkids, three with vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and one with former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

The Post published one more photo of Obama than of Romney — 23, with 14 of those by himself and, tellingly, maybe two of him smiling. In all others he was sober. There was only one shot of Obama and the first lady together as a couple, although two photos were published of the couple with their daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Interestingly, just one shot of Vice President Biden was published all week, whereas Romney’s running mate was all over the paper. Seventeen shots of Ryan were published, 10 solo and seven with others.

Michelle Obama had a slight edge over Ann Romney in photographs. Obama appeared in nine photos, six solo plus three with her husband and daughters. Romney appeared in eight shots, just one solo, the others with Mitt or her children.

For Democrats, the big winner in photos after the Obamas, no surprise, was former president Bill Clinton, who appeared in 13 photos in all, six alone, one with his daughter, Chelsea, and six with President Obama. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was traveling on State Department business, appeared just once in convention coverage.

Online, The Post’s coverage was even more voluminous — 125 videos alone were produced over the two convention weeks. I can’t go through all the innovations online in the space here, but they were numerous, interesting and fair to Democrats and Republicans. All in all, The Post did well in convention coverage. Hats off.

Patrick B. Pexton can be reached at 202-334-7582 or at ombudsman@
washpost.com
.