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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 To determine the significance of the criteria, reporters were asked to rank the importance of each condition. The investigator then weighed each criterion with a point system based on how often each standard was ranked first, second, third, or fourth by a reporter. 3 Criterion that were mentioned by only one or two reporters were dropped from the sample so that only those that were used by at least three journalists were included. This was done to establish patterns across all eight reporters. Table 2 shows the order of importance reporters gave to each of the five criteria as well as the number of points each condition received. Public interest/viability was the most important of the criteria that reporters cited when judging whether a third-party candidate should be covered more extensively. Seven of the eight reporters mentioned this criterion during the interviews, with six ranking public interest as either the first or second most important condition to determining coverage levels. This should not be surprising given that reporters tend to view campaigns mostly as a contest. The reporters measured public interest in four ways: is the candidate receiving enough support in public opinion polls to make him or her a viable candidate; how large are the candidate’s crowds during public events like speeches and rallies; how much are political insiders talking about the third-party candidate; and does the newspaper’s readership have an inherent interest in candidates from outside the political mainstream. As the Union-Tribune’s Marelius put it: “The most important criterion in determining how much coverage to give a third-party or independent candidate is 3 A criterion was given 4 points each time a reporter ranked it as his or her most important condition. In addition, a criterion received 3 points each time a reporter ranked it as his or her second most important condition, 2 points when it was listed third and 1 point when it was ranked fourth. 20

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
To determine the significance of the criteria, reporters were asked to rank the 
importance of each condition.  The investigator then weighed each criterion with a point 
system based on how often each standard was ranked first, second, third, or fourth by a 
reporter.
  Criterion that were mentioned by only one or two reporters were dropped from 
the sample so that only those that were used by at least three journalists were included. 
This was done to establish patterns across all eight reporters. Table 2 shows the order of 
importance reporters gave to each of the five criteria as well as the number of points each 
condition received.
Public interest/viability was the most important of the criteria that reporters cited 
when judging whether a third-party candidate should be covered more extensively. 
Seven of the eight reporters mentioned this criterion during the interviews, with six 
ranking public interest as either the first or second most important condition to 
determining coverage levels.  This should not be surprising given that reporters tend to 
view campaigns mostly as a contest.
The reporters measured public interest in four ways: is the candidate receiving 
enough support in public opinion polls to make him or her a viable candidate; how large 
are the candidate’s crowds during public events like speeches and rallies; how much are 
political insiders talking about the third-party candidate; and does the newspaper’s 
readership have an inherent interest in candidates from outside the political mainstream.  
As the Union-Tribune’s Marelius put it:  “The most important criterion in 
determining how much coverage to give a third-party or independent candidate is 
3
 A criterion was given 4 points each time a reporter ranked it as his or her most important condition. In 
addition, a criterion received 3 points each time a reporter ranked it as his or her second most important 
condition, 2 points when it was listed third and 1 point when it was ranked fourth.
20


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