In modern democracies, elections are considered the central mechanism for people to control their elected representatives. They allow voters who are dissatisfied with those in power to periodically punish and replace them. However, this requires that political decision-making is transparent and that alternative party options are actually evident in the electoral contest. Based on normative democratic theory, this paper argues that mass media may contribute to both of these premises and thus mobilize voters to go to the polls. Accordingly, I assume that well-balanced and critical media coverage leads to a higher turnout. So far, only few studies exist which test these assumptions in a large comparative setting. To provide more empirical evidence on the relationship between media coverage and political participation, this contribution combines data about press systems and from newspaper content analyses with opinion surveys and performs multi-level analyses for a range of established democracies. Contrary to the assumptions, I find that an ideological balance within the press system does not motivate citizens to take part in elections. In addition, newspaper reports about official misconduct tend to keep voters away from the ballot boxes.