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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
Unformatted Document Text:  and a political structure that makes it difficult for even the most serious minor-party contender to compete effectively for elected office. In addition, the interviews suggest Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates that reporters are particularly skeptical of third-party aspirants and do not want to be drawn into covering candidates who are not taking the campaign seriously. This lends partial support to the notion that Zaller’s Rule of Anticipated Importance may be at work at the state level. But there also appear to be ideological reasons to explain the coverage differences (Research Question 2). Reporters clearly see campaigns mostly as a contest in which third-party candidates are inherently less newsworthy because they usually have little impact on the race. This raises several questions. Would the coverage be different if reporters viewed campaigns more in terms of ideas and debate rather than exclusively as a contest? Would reporters be more inclined to cover minor-party contenders if they defined campaigns as public dialogues in which the main goal was to foster political discourse and explore alternative solutions to statewide problems rather than to determine which candidate is best positioned to win on Election Day? In other words, would a change in paradigm make third-party candidates more newsworthy? The answers to these questions are outside the scope of the present study. What is certain is that the contest paradigm is deeply entrenched in the way reporters think and provides one ideological explanation for why third-party candidates are covered differently than Democrats and Republicans. The contest paradigm in which reporters view campaigns also supports Zaller’s theory in that journalists refrain from covering third-party gubernatorial candidates because they do not anticipate that those candidates will have future consequence on the election. 23

Authors: Kirch, John.
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and a political structure that makes it difficult for even the most serious minor-party 
contender to compete effectively for elected office.  In addition, the interviews suggest 
Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
that reporters are particularly skeptical of third-party aspirants and do not want to be 
drawn into covering candidates who are not taking the campaign seriously.  This lends
partial support to the notion that Zaller’s Rule of Anticipated Importance may be at work 
at the state level.
But there also appear to be ideological reasons to explain the coverage differences 
(Research Question 2).  Reporters clearly see campaigns mostly as a contest in which 
third-party candidates are inherently less newsworthy because they usually have little 
impact on the race.  This raises several questions.  Would the coverage be different if 
reporters viewed campaigns more in terms of ideas and debate rather than exclusively as 
a contest?  Would reporters be more inclined to cover minor-party contenders if they 
defined campaigns as public dialogues in which the main goal was to foster political 
discourse and explore alternative solutions to statewide problems rather than to determine 
which candidate is best positioned to win on Election Day?  In other words, would a 
change in paradigm make third-party candidates more newsworthy?  The answers to 
these questions are outside the scope of the present study.  What is certain is that the 
contest paradigm is deeply entrenched in the way reporters think and provides one 
ideological explanation for why third-party candidates are covered differently than 
Democrats and Republicans.  The contest paradigm in which reporters view campaigns 
also supports Zaller’s theory in that journalists refrain from covering third-party 
gubernatorial candidates because they do not anticipate that those candidates will have 
future consequence on the election.
23


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