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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 problematic with the state, issues that the state is grappling with in the legislature;” and Steven Walters of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said his ideas for political stories usually develop by “listening to people” and from “covering the Capitol and its issues for 17, 18 years.” Although it would seem natural for a state Capitol reporter to get information from sources at the state Capitol, it is also true that every state legislature in the country save one (Nebraska’s nonpartisan body) is dominated by either the Democrats or Republicans—and sometimes both. Relying on these institutions for information, therefore, means that political journalists are continuously exposed to a Democrat- Republican worldview on what is important. Issues that the major parties deem significant enough to tackle and talk about during legislative sessions will likely be the same issues that dominate campaign discourse—an observation that is supported by the agenda-building studies (see Berkowitz 1987; Brown et al. 1987; Gans 1980; Sigal 1973, 1986; Weaver and Elliott 1985). The interviews showed a second way that two-party institutions influence articles that appear in newspapers: reporters said they receive many (but not all) of their campaign story ideas from the campaigns they cover. In most cases reporters indicated that when they were referring to “the campaigns” they usually meant the Democrats and Republicans. For example, when Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle gave examples of the various sources she usually contacts during an election, she said they normally include “the chairman of the state Democratic Party” as well as “Democratic 11

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
problematic with the state, issues that the state is grappling with in the legislature;” and 
Steven Walters of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said his ideas for political stories 
usually develop by “listening to people” and from “covering the Capitol and its issues for 
17, 18 years.”
Although it would seem natural for a state Capitol reporter to get information 
from sources at the state Capitol, it is also true that every state legislature in the country 
save one (Nebraska’s nonpartisan body) is dominated by either the Democrats or 
Republicans—and sometimes both.  Relying on these institutions for information, 
therefore, means that political journalists are continuously exposed to a Democrat-
Republican worldview on what is important.  Issues that the major parties deem 
significant enough to tackle and talk about during legislative sessions will likely be the 
same issues that dominate campaign discourse—an observation that is supported by the 
agenda-building studies (see Berkowitz 1987; Brown et al. 1987; Gans 1980; Sigal 1973, 
1986; Weaver and Elliott 1985).
The interviews showed a second way that two-party institutions influence articles 
that appear in newspapers: reporters said they receive many (but not all) of their 
campaign story ideas from the campaigns they cover.  In most cases reporters indicated 
that when they were referring to “the campaigns” they usually meant the Democrats and 
For example, when Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle gave 
examples of the various sources she usually contacts during an election, she said they 
normally include “the chairman of the state Democratic Party” as well as “Democratic 

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