Pittsburgh's TV stations are making millions off the Critz-Rothfus congressional race in PA12 -- it's among the most expensive in the country -- but they're hardly covering the home-market contest.
A Columbia Journalism Review study found scant coverage on any of the three network affiliates, and reached out to all three for explanations. Not mentioned is the additional fact that no Pittsburgh station held a televised debate -- one brief one was held in Beaver and another was televised locally in Johnstown.
And don't expect things to change dramatically -- November sweeps start today, which usually means splashy investigative stories rather than eat-your-oatmeal elections previews.
Last month, Politico ranked Critz v. Rothfus the third most-expensive House race in the country based on outside group and national party committee spending through the end of September, which Politico put at $3.5 million. Labor, Politico reported, is "coming to Critz's rescue...in the Pittsburgh media market, airing a battery of commercials hammering Critz's Republican opponent" and the National Republican Congressional Committee and the super PAC YG Action Fund are "plowing in cash as well." Other big outside spenders include, for Rothfus, the conservative nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform, and, for Critz, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
For TV-watching Pennsylvanians, then, tears may be in order—Pittsburgh-area residents in particular.
And a review of the news coverage of Critz v. Rothfus by the TV stations raking in the ad dollars confirms that TV viewers in PA-12 have little to smile about. There has been staggeringly slight coverage of the race, including scrutiny of the omnipresent ads. From many of these stations, viewers have received little help examining these candidates, their positions, or the messages they and their supporters wield.