ONLINE POLITICAL NEWS CONVERAGE
A STUDY OF FIRST BALLOT VOTING IN THE CANADIAN ALLIANCE
LEADERSHIP RACE (JUNE 22 - 24, 2000)
3.4 National and Political Front Pages
Number of Stories
At first glance, Web sites offered by traditional
Canadian print news media as well as Internet portal sites appeared
to offer a considerable amount of news about first ballot voting
in the Canadian Alliance leadership race. In 22.7 percent of downloads
there were 9 or more leadership race related stories on the front
Yahoo.ca had a political front page devoted
entirely to the leadership race and therefore had more than nine
stories in every download. The Yahoo.ca page was the only real example
of meta-journalism in this study, meaning it had links to stories
from across media, including audio, video, wire and print. Most
other sites featured content from a single news organization.
Canoe.ca and Excite.ca also had
nine or more stories in half of all downloads. At the other end
of the spectrum, CBC.ca consistently offered only one Canadian Alliance
story on the front page per download. Consequently, aol.ca, whose
news front page was the CBC.ca front page stripped of the audio
and video links, also featured only one leadership story per download.
In all three downloads on Friday June 22, the NationalPost.com
had no Canadian Alliance leadership related stories on the front
page, despite having several stories on it's political front page.
However, because the political front page of the NationalPost.com
Web site could not be bookmarked, stories on that page could not
be considered in this study.
Overall there was only one story on the front page
in 29.4 per cent of downloads and four or more stories on the front
page almost half the time (47.9 per cent).
Front Page Changes
Front pages were well maintained throughout the
study period. In 53.8 per cent of downloads the front page was either
completely new, had been edited to include more stories or had some
new stories with the same overall number of stories.
In 30.3 per cent of downloads there was no change
at all to the front page. NationalPost.com and TheStar.com
account for many of the instances in which there was no change due
to the fact that their front pages generally featured all new content
each morning and then remained static throughout the day, similar
to the news cycle of the printed newspapers from which their content
First ballot voting dominated Canadian news the
weekend of June 22 to June 24, 2000. A Canadian Alliance leadership
story ranked first on national / political news front pages in 62.2
per cent of downloads and second in a further 16.8 per cent of downloads.
In those cases where the lead leadership story ranked
lower than first, it was second only to Zimbabwe's crucial parliamentary
elections. As well, on Monday June 26, the announcement that an
international team of scientists had completed mapping of the human
genome also bumped the Canadian Alliance leadership first ballot
voting, now a 36 hour-old story, out of first ranking.
CBC.ca and Excite.ca were most
likely not to rank a Canadian Alliance story first. Yahoo.ca
always had a Canadian Alliance story first because of its dedicated
One of the most surprising findings about national
/ political front pages concerned photos. They were relatively absent.
In 78.2 per cent of downloads, the front pages contained
no photos. In only 2.5 per cent of cases were there more than one
photo on the front page, despite considerable media attention related
to the youth, athleticism and photogenaity of candidate Stockwell
The print media sources monitored provided a far
more meaningful visual representation of the weekend convention,
with 70 per cent of the newspapers in the control group having five
or more photographs.
Excite.ca, Yahoo.ca, aol.ca
and the Bourque Newswatch site never had a photo, editorial
cartoon or other visual image on the front page.
Sympatico.ca, on the other hand featured
a photo on the front page in 75.0 per cent of downloads. Judging
by the consistently observed layout of the Sympatico.ca
front page, it may in fact be site policy to run one photograph
with each of the top ranked stories wherever possible.
NationalPost.com and TheStar.com
featured Canadian Alliance related photographs on the front page
in 50.0 per cent of downloads. In one case, TheStar.com
featured four photographs on the front page, mirroring the Toronto
Star's print edition from the same day.
Generally, the Web sites monitored in this study
fared poorly in terms of interactivity, with 55.6 per cent of front
page downloads having no interactive elements whatsoever.
The Internet portal sites led the pack in terms
of interactivity on front pages. Canoe.ca, Yahoo.ca
and Sympatico.ca offered online news users the most interactive
front pages, featuring discussion groups, audience polls, or in
some cases both. Excite.ca featured a long-running audience
poll on a Canadian Alliance related topic.
Of the Web sites offered by the traditional media,
only TheGlobeandMail.com offered any interactive features
on the front page, but they were only related to the Canadian Alliance
in 50 per cent of cases. NationalPost.com and TheStar.com
did not offer any interactive featured on the front page.
Audio and Video
Front pages offering links to Canadian Alliance
related audio or video material were also very rare.
Only the meta-journalistic Yahoo.ca consistently
provided five or more audio or video links on their Canadian Alliance
front page, surprisingly more that CBC.ca, which generally
only provided one or two audio or video links on the front page.
The remainder of the sites provided no audio or
video links whatsoever, accounting for 81. 5 per cent of downloads.