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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 campaign is a “contest” was emphasized by seven of the eight political journalists who were interviewed. This contest paradigm was articulated in both the overt definitions reporters gave for the term “campaign” as well as the unconscious manner in which reporters talked about such things as how they cover elections. This tendency to see campaigns mostly as a competition makes third-party candidates less newsworthy than their Democratic and Republican rivals because minor-party hopefuls usually are far behind in the contest. This win-lose model used by reporters also de-emphasizes the more normative aspects of a campaign, such as a campaign’s role in encouraging public participation in a wider political discussion. The first way that reporters stressed the competition was in the definitions they provided for the term “campaign.” Margaret Talev of the McClatchy Group said a campaign is “the organization that a candidate puts together to win a race.” Marelius of the San Diego Union-Tribune put it this way: “A campaign is the process … of candidates making their cases to the voters;” and David Callender of Madison, WI’s Capital Times defined the term as “actively seeking election to a political office” as well as “the organization … and the techniques you use to run for that office.” The contest paradigm through which reporters view campaigns also was evident in how reporters said they cover various candidates. In answering a wide range of questions about their daily routines during the election season, the reporters tended to focus on elements of a campaign that directly pertain to the competition, such as fundraising, political strategy, polls, and political advertisements. For instance, when Barabak was trying to recall some of the political stories he had written over the years, the first two he mentioned dealt with campaign financing and advertising. Talev 13

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
campaign is a “contest” was emphasized by seven of the eight political journalists who 
were interviewed.  This contest paradigm was articulated in both the overt definitions 
reporters gave for the term “campaign” as well as the unconscious manner in which 
reporters talked about such things as how they cover elections.  This tendency to see 
campaigns mostly as a competition makes third-party candidates less newsworthy than 
their Democratic and Republican rivals because minor-party hopefuls usually are far 
behind in the contest.  This win-lose model used by reporters also de-emphasizes the 
more normative aspects of a campaign, such as a campaign’s role in encouraging public 
participation in a wider political discussion. 
The first way that reporters stressed the competition was in the definitions they 
provided for the term “campaign.”  Margaret Talev of the McClatchy Group said a 
campaign is “the organization that a candidate puts together to win a race.”  Marelius of 
the San Diego Union-Tribune put it this way: “A campaign is the process … of 
candidates making their cases to the voters;” and David Callender of Madison, WI’s 
Capital Times defined the term as “actively seeking election to a political office” as well 
as “the organization … and the techniques you use to run for that office.”
The contest paradigm through which reporters view campaigns also was evident 
in how reporters said they cover various candidates.  In answering a wide range of 
questions about their daily routines during the election season, the reporters tended to 
focus on elements of a campaign that directly pertain to the competition, such as 
fundraising, political strategy, polls, and political advertisements.  For instance, when 
Barabak was trying to recall some of the political stories he had written over the years, 
the first two he mentioned dealt with campaign financing and advertising.  Talev 

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