Sen. Kamala Harris won; former vice president Joe Biden lost. That’s the media narrative that emerged after last week’s Democratic primary debate. According to data from the TV News Archive, which chops up cable news into 15-second clips,1 Harris more than doubled the number of clips that mentioned her across the three networks that we monitor — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — compared to the week prior. Harris was also mentioned in a third of online news stories that mentioned a Democratic candidate last week, compared to only about 22 percent the previous week, according to data from Media Cloud.2 Biden on the other hand, saw a reduction in cable and online news coverage.
|Cable TV clips the week of …||online stories the week of …|
|Candidate||June 16||June 23||diff.||June 16||June 23||diff.|
|Bill de Blasio||1.2||2.3||+1.1||9.3||15.5||+6.2|
That table is a bit misleading, though. Biden was mentioned in 48 percent of cable news clips in the two days after the debate, and Harris was mentioned in 32 percent. Presumably, that’s because of their exchange on Thursday night. A similar dynamic was apparent in online stories: Biden was mentioned in 61 percent of stories that mentioned Democratic candidates in the two days after the debate; Harris appeared in 57 percent.
It’s no surprise that Harris got more media coverage after she pointedly criticized Biden in the debate for having boasted about being able to work with segregationist senators and for having opposed federally mandated bussing to integrate schools, but it is unclear whether her increase in media attention will come at the expense of Biden’s. Two weeks ago, Cory Booker attacked Biden about the same remarks that Harris took issue with, and Booker saw an increase in coverage, but the share of coverage in cable and online news that Biden received didn’t decrease. In the coming weeks, we’ll be checking to see if Harris can sustain her increased media coverage, whether Biden will retain his dominance, or if someone else will grab the spotlight away from either of the two. Stay tuned!