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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 centers of Sacramento to see how the campaign is playing with regular citizens so he can better determine which candidate may be winning. As one example, Barabak said he went to San Benito County, CA, during the 2006 governor’s campaign to interview voters there about which candidates they were supporting. He chose to talk to people in that area, he said, because the county has “almost a perfect track record” of not only picking the winner of each gubernatorial election, but coming “within literally decimal points of the statewide total.” In other words, the voters there were a perfect gauge for how the candidates were performing in the contest. Finally, the contest paradigm that seems to dominate the thinking of reporters is evident in the way that journalists discussed (or in some cases, did not discuss) the role that public policy issues and ideas play in a political campaign. While the interviews suggest that reporters believe issues are or should be important factors on Election Day, in five of the eight interviews, reporters did not talk about issues or ideas when defining the term campaign until the investigator raised the subject with them first. In addition, when reporters were asked about the role that issues and ideas play in an election, they valued issues mostly in terms of how they might impact the contest. Scott Milfred of the Wisconsin State Journal, for instance, agreed that a campaign was “a contest of ideas,” but he said that most candidates “package those ideas in extremely narrow and kind of cynical and hot button or sound bite ways” to appeal to a certain audience. Walters said, “Yeah, it’s about issues, but it’s about issues that are ginned up and may or may not be valid.” The main point here is that from their overt definitions of the term campaign to the manner in which they discuss voters and issues, reporters demonstrated a strong bias 15

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
centers of Sacramento to see how the campaign is playing with regular citizens so he can 
better determine which candidate may be winning.  As one example, Barabak said he 
went to San Benito County, CA, during the 2006 governor’s campaign to interview 
voters there about which candidates they were supporting.  He chose to talk to people in 
that area, he said, because the county has “almost a perfect track record” of not only 
picking the winner of each gubernatorial election, but coming “within literally decimal 
points of the statewide total.”  In other words, the voters there were a perfect gauge for 
how the candidates were performing in the contest.
Finally, the contest paradigm that seems to dominate the thinking of reporters is 
evident in the way that journalists discussed (or in some cases, did not discuss) the role 
that public policy issues and ideas play in a political campaign.
While the interviews suggest that reporters believe issues are or should be 
important factors on Election Day, in five of the eight interviews, reporters did not talk 
about issues or ideas when defining the term campaign until the investigator raised the 
subject with them first.  In addition, when reporters were asked about the role that issues 
and ideas play in an election, they valued issues mostly in terms of how they might 
impact the contest.  Scott Milfred of the Wisconsin State Journal, for instance, agreed 
that a campaign was “a contest of ideas,” but he said that most candidates “package those 
ideas in extremely narrow and kind of cynical and hot button or sound bite ways” to 
appeal to a certain audience.  Walters said, “Yeah, it’s about issues, but it’s about issues 
that are ginned up and may or may not be valid.”
The main point here is that from their overt definitions of the term campaign to 
the manner in which they discuss voters and issues, reporters demonstrated a strong bias 

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