Decision 2012

Every four years in November, eligible Americans have the opportunity to cast a ballot* for president. The election marks the conclusion of intense political campaigns — but not the end of equally intense media coverage.

The election cycle begins almost as soon as a president takes the oath of office. If it's a president's first term, the news media might question how new policies or initiatives will affect his or her hopes for a second term. If it's a president's second term, the news media may turn their attention to possible successors and reactions to the current president's policies. Some stories merit the media's coverage. Others are blown out of proportion. Every story has the potential to shape the election's outcome.

*You can find the definitions of boldfaced words in the Decision 2012 Glossary.

From President Barack Obama's inauguration in January 2009 through the latest election developments, this timeline uses videos from NBC Learn to trace the major media moments of "Decision 2012."

Does intense media coverage contribute to better understanding of important topics and candidates' platforms, or does constant coverage detract from the real issues? Have the news media always covered election campaigns so closely, or is this coverage a product of the 24-hour news cycle and its constant need for new stories? Is it possible to cut through all the noise to get to the issues that matter most to you? Through the lenses of history, media literacy and civics, this learning module explores these and other key questions and challenges facing Americans as Election Day approaches.

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