ONLINE POLITICAL NEWS CONVERAGE
A STUDY OF FIRST BALLOT VOTING IN THE CANADIAN ALLIANCE
LEADERSHIP RACE (JUNE 22 - 24, 2000)
3.2 Components of the Study
This study centers on a major political news event,
that is first ballot voting in the race for leadership of Canada's
newly renamed right-wing party, the Canadian Reform Conservative
Alliance (formerly known as the Reform Party of Canada).
This study examined four days surrounding first
ballot voting in the leadership race: Friday June 23, 2000, (the
opening day of the convention); Saturday, June 24, 2000, (voting
day); Sunday, June 25, (the day after); and Monday, June 26, 2000
(the first business day following the vote).
The leadership convention was held in Calgary, Alberta,
but given the one-member one-vote method of choosing the leader
of the new party, voting actually took place across Canada.
Two elements were studied for each web site: the
national or political news front page and the lead Canadian Alliance
related news story.
The National / Political Front Page
In those cases where a Web site offered a political
news front page, that page was bookmarked for downloading during
the study. The ability to bookmark the political front page was
the significant criterion in determining what page within a site
was to be studied. Where there was no bookmarkable political front
page on a site, the national news front page was bookmarked for
The front pages of the 10 selected online news providers
were downloaded for study three times daily, at 9:00, 14:00 and
21:00. The pages were first examined for their Canadian Alliance
leadership related stories: the number of stories, how prominently
they were featured and whether the leadership related content on
the front page had been updated since the previous download.
Next, the ways in which the front pages integrated
the unique features of the Internet were assessed. This included
evaluating the presence of interactive elements such as audience
polls, chat rooms, quizzes and other creative tools. The number
of links to audio or video and the number of photos were also tabulated.
The Lead Story
The top ranked leadership related-story on each
front page was downloaded for coding three times daily. The lead
story variables examined included whether the story lead had been
edited or replaced since the previous download, as well as the source
of the story and whether a journalist was given credit for the story.
As with the front pages, the presence of features
unique to the Internet in the lead story were coded. Specifically,
were there interactive elements such as discussion groups, polls
or quizzes? Were there photos, links to audio or video? Were there
links to other news stories, candidates' home pages or party policy
Content related variables such as the number of
cited sources, what triggered each story and the topics of the stories
were also examined. However, given the homogeneity of the coverage,
both in print and online, those results will not be discussed here.
A control group consisting of Canada's three largest
circulation daily newspapers was monitored throughout the study
period. While the sample size was not large enough to be statistically
significant, the control group offered a basis for assessing the
alternatives politically interested news consumers could access
during this politically interesting weekend.