ONLINE POLITICAL NEWS CONVERAGE
A STUDY OF FIRST BALLOT VOTING IN THE CANADIAN ALLIANCE
LEADERSHIP RACE (JUNE 22 - 24, 2000)
This study is an attempt to quantify the state of online political
news in Canada during a period of relatively intense political activity.
Accepting that Internet technology does possess the potential to
enhance the communication processes that are integral to democracy
by making more information available to voters at lower cost, the
challenge then becomes to quantify whether or not it is actually
Given the extremely limited amount of Canadian research on this
subject to date, this study is offered as a very humble first attempt
to quantify Canadian online news content and determine if or how
it differs from the political news offered by the traditional media.
For the purposes of this study, online Canadian news is compared
to that found in a sample group of Canadian newspapers.
This study is also a preliminary attempt to identify weaknesses
in the current Canadian online political news market.
The key findings of this study lend support to the conclusion that
the Internet on its own does not yet offer a comprehensive alternative
to the traditional media. Specifically:
- The Canadian Press newswire dominates online political news
content in Canada.
- With certain exceptions, content on newspaper Web sites essentially
mirrors that found in their printed editions.
- Journalists are actually less likely to receive credit for their
work when it is published online.
- Most Canadian online national and political front pages do not
maximize their use of the unique features of the Internet.
- With certain exceptions, Canadian audio and video content is
virtually absent from Canadian online political news.
- Newspapers provide more and better quality visual content (i.e.
photographs) than can be found online.
- With certain exceptions, meaningful interactivity is virtually
absent from most Canadian news Web sites.
The findings of this study were derived from monitoring a sample
of 10 online news Web sites at a pivotal moment in Canadian politics,
first ballot voting in the leadership of Canada's newly renamed
right-wing political party, the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.
The study included four newspaper Web sites, one broadcast Web
site, four Canadian Internet portal sites, and one independent political
Web site. Unlike the American study on which this research was modeled,
we were unable to include any Canadian online political news magazines
to monitor because there are none that are updated for breaking
Ultimately, based on this and other ongoing research, the goal
of PoliticsWatch.com is to develop a Canadian political portal offering
reliable, well-sourced, well-crafted online political journalism,
integrated with the unique interactive features of the Internet.