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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 in favor of a contest paradigm when talking about the election season. This journalistic tendency has important implications for third-party candidates and provides at least one explanation for why they are either ignored or treated differently by the press. Under this definition of the term “campaign,” minor-party gubernatorial contenders are inherently less newsworthy in the eyes of journalism because they do not contribute anything meaningful to the one aspect of an election that is the central focus of the reporter: the contest. Two-party hegemony If the interviews are any indication, reporters consciously—and at times unconsciously—accept the hegemony of the two-party system as a natural part of American politics. They consider campaigns to be primarily two-person affairs, and they rarely think to question the existing power structure or their role in maintaining it. As the comments that follow indicate, part of this is simple practicality—reporters do not have the physical ability to cover everyone. But part of their reality is also ideological, as the two-party system has become deeply entrenched in the way reporters conceptualize and talk about politics. For example, in discussing his daily routine on the campaign trail, Walters said, “It’s a good day when handlers from both candidates are mad at me.” Yamamura said he knows he has done a good job “if we had complaints on both sides.” Talev said that a campaign is “a contest between two people,” and Milfred said that while he appreciates third parties because they raise issues the Democrats and Republicans are sometimes unwilling to talk about, he nevertheless indicated an unconscious acceptance of two-party 16

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
in favor of a contest paradigm when talking about the election season.  This journalistic 
tendency has important implications for third-party candidates and provides at least one 
explanation for why they are either ignored or treated differently by the press.  Under this 
definition of the term “campaign,” minor-party gubernatorial contenders are inherently 
less newsworthy in the eyes of journalism because they do not contribute anything 
meaningful to the one aspect of an election that is the central focus of the reporter: the 
contest.
Two-party hegemony
If the interviews are any indication, reporters consciously—and at times 
unconsciously—accept the hegemony of the two-party system as a natural part of 
American politics.  They consider campaigns to be primarily two-person affairs, and they 
rarely think to question the existing power structure or their role in maintaining it.  As the 
comments that follow indicate, part of this is simple practicality—reporters do not have 
the physical ability to cover everyone.  But part of their reality is also ideological, as the 
two-party system has become deeply entrenched in the way reporters conceptualize and 
talk about politics.
For example, in discussing his daily routine on the campaign trail, Walters said, 
“It’s a good day when handlers from both candidates are mad at me.”  Yamamura said he 
knows he has done a good job “if we had complaints on both sides.” Talev said that a 
campaign is “a contest between two people,” and Milfred said that while he appreciates 
third parties because they raise issues the Democrats and Republicans are sometimes 
unwilling to talk about, he nevertheless indicated an unconscious acceptance of two-party 
16


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