A new study out confirms something you already knew: The more sensational a politician, the more headlines they’re likely to get. According to research from Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, Christine O’Donnell has been the most-covered candidate of 2010, even though she had almost no chance of winning a Senate seat in Delaware, one of the nation’s least-populous states. If it bleeds, it leads. Even more so if it once claimed to be a witch.
That the media might become obsessed with a candidate for all the wrong reasons is, again, not going to shock anyone. What is surprising, however, is the contrast between what races the media values and what races were valued by those who actually have money to spend.
In order to find out who got talked about the most, Pew tracked coverage from 52 outlets across five platforms—broadcast TV, cable news, online news, newspapers, and talk radio—from the beginning of the year until October 31.
The final tally was unsurprisingly Tea Party–heavy, with O’Donnell, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, and Nevada’s Sharron Angle leading the list. Much further down was Dino Rossi, who, with only eight national stories in which he was the featured newsmaker, barely beat out Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who wasn’t even campaigning this year.
Contrast that relative lack of media attention to the monetary attention Rossi received from anonymous donors—at more than $4.5 million, his secret cash haul led the nation—and it’s clear: Rossi was a well-kept secret only to those who actually read the news.