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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
Unformatted Document Text:  Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates properly interpret the wide array of competing political messages that are transmitted in the months before an election; to act as the readers’ advocate by trying to force candidates to discuss issues they might try to avoid; and to keep the candidates honest through the journalistic watchdog role. For example, Kevin Yamamura of the Sacramento Bee said his responsibility is to know “more than most people about what’s going on in the campaign and be able to … cut through the messaging or the strategy to provide readers and voters with clear information.” John Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune said: “The entire responsibility of a political reporter is to the broader society—that is, the voters. Simply put, we try to give them the information they need to vote intelligently.” However, it appears from the interviews that reporters unconsciously define their role as informer within boundaries established by the Democrats and Republicans. They did not say this explicitly, of course, but their bias came through in subtle ways when journalists explained which sources they turn to for political information and how they develop story ideas about campaigns. Most of what journalists know about politics comes from observing and talking to people and institutions that are typically dominated by the two major political parties. In short, the two-party system provides the menu of story ideas from which reporters choose. For example, at least two of the reporters who were interviewed indicated that they know which subjects are important to cover in a gubernatorial campaign simply by being around the state Capitol building and observing which issues are being tackled by legislative leaders – almost all of whom come from one of the major parties. The Bee’s Yamamura said that when he is covering a campaign he tries to focus on issues “that are 10

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
properly interpret the wide array of competing political messages that are transmitted in 
the months before an election; to act as the readers’ advocate by trying to force 
candidates to discuss issues they might try to avoid; and to keep the candidates honest 
through the journalistic watchdog role.
For example, Kevin Yamamura of the Sacramento Bee said his responsibility is to 
know “more than most people about what’s going on in the campaign and be able to … 
cut through the messaging or the strategy to provide readers and voters with clear 
information.”  John Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune said: “The entire 
responsibility of a political reporter is to the broader society—that is, the voters.  Simply 
put, we try to give them the information they need to vote intelligently.”
However, it appears from the interviews that reporters unconsciously define their 
role as informer within boundaries established by the Democrats and Republicans.  They 
did not say this explicitly, of course, but their bias came through in subtle ways when 
journalists explained which sources they turn to for political information and how they 
develop story ideas about campaigns.  Most of what journalists know about politics 
comes from observing and talking to people and institutions that are typically dominated 
by the two major political parties.  In short, the two-party system provides the menu of 
story ideas from which reporters choose.
For example, at least two of the reporters who were interviewed indicated that 
they know which subjects are important to cover in a gubernatorial campaign simply by 
being around the state Capitol building and observing which issues are being tackled by 
legislative leaders – almost all of whom come from one of the major parties.  The Bee’s 
Yamamura said that when he is covering a campaign he tries to focus on issues “that are 
10


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