Coronavirus Network Coverage

The public is relying on television news for updates during the coronavirus pandemic, but not all viewers are getting the same story. Our study reveals that coverage of the virus is politicized in ways that seem to put profit and partisanship above public health, particularly on Fox News and MSNBC.

To see how news reports differed, the Center for Media Engagement, in collaboration with Dr. Ashley Muddiman and her team at the University of Kansas and Dr. Ceren Budak and her team at the University of Michigan, analyzed the content of primetime cable news network shows on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and nightly network news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC between January and June of 2020. The results revealed differences in the amount of coverage, the people and organizations referenced, the language used, and the factual claims made in coverage of the virus.

The results highlight the importance of understanding how programs lean—and knowing whether they are providing news or opinion. We hope this report will empower the public to consider where they get their news and will lead news organizations to consider strategies for letting the public know when content is news versus opinion.

As part of this report, we’ve gathered information about the networks’ advertisers, board members, and shareholders. These individuals and organizations knowingly or unknowingly condone politicized coverage. If you find the coverage troubling, you can contact them to advocate for change or change your purchasing behavior.

Full Report: Cable and Nightly Network News Coverage of Coronavirus

December 17, 2020

To see how coronavirus coverage differed across networks, we examined the content of cable and nightly network news programs.
Read More

Full Report: Advertiser Spending on Primetime News Throughout the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 15, 2022

An examination of advertiser spending on broadcast and cable news programs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Read More

Advertiser Information

December 17, 2020

Advertiser information for cable and nightly network news broadcasts.

Shareholder & Board Information

December 17, 2020

Shareholder and board information for cable and nightly network news broadcasts

Interested in learning more about this study? Talia Stroud, Director of the Center for Media Engagement, sat down with Mark Gibson, project funder and CEO, Capital Markets, JLL Americas, to discuss the importance of the study, the major findings, and what can be done about the politicization of news coverage.


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