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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 This lack of coverage is problematic, some scholars argue, because third parties have played an instrumental role throughout American history. Magarian (1992) and Rosenstone, Behr, and Lazarus (1984) point out that third-party candidates have often raised issues that the two major parties ignored. In addition, minor parties have successfully pushed policy innovations, such as a woman’s right to vote (Sifry 2003), and they have served as barometers of the public’s discontent with the status quo (Cook 1989). Unless the media reflects a multitude of voices in the so-called marketplace of ideas, others say, American democracy suffers and the existing power structure goes unchallenged (A Free and Responsible Press 1947, 23-24; Barron 1967; Lichtenberg 1987; Wellstone 2000, 552). Yet despite this reoccurring problem in American election coverage, scholars have given little attention to why third-party contenders have trouble getting the news media’s attention. This gap in the literature is particularly evident at the state level, where there are virtually no studies that specifically examine how minor-party gubernatorial candidates are covered by the press and why they are covered this way (See Kirch 2008). This paper seeks to close that gap by using in-depth interviews with newspaper reporters who have covered statewide gubernatorial elections that involved serious third-party challengers. The main purpose of this study is to identify the criteria political journalists use to determine whether a candidate from outside the Democratic and Republican parties is worthy of news coverage. In addition, this paper identifies both practical and ideological reasons to explain why candidates who challenge the establishment are often relegated to the sidelines, where their voices are rarely heard. 3

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
This lack of coverage is problematic, some scholars argue, because third parties 
have played an instrumental role throughout American history.  Magarian (1992) and 
Rosenstone, Behr, and Lazarus (1984) point out that third-party candidates have often 
raised issues that the two major parties ignored.  In addition, minor parties have 
successfully pushed policy innovations, such as a woman’s right to vote (Sifry 2003), and 
they have served as barometers of the public’s discontent with the status quo (Cook 
1989).  Unless the media reflects a multitude of voices in the so-called marketplace of 
ideas, others say, American democracy suffers and the existing power structure goes 
unchallenged (A Free and Responsible Press 1947, 23-24; Barron 1967; Lichtenberg 
1987; Wellstone 2000, 552).
Yet despite this reoccurring problem in American election coverage, scholars 
have given little attention to why third-party contenders have trouble getting the news 
media’s attention.  This gap in the literature is particularly evident at the state level, 
where there are virtually no studies that specifically examine how minor-party 
gubernatorial candidates are covered by the press and why they are covered this way (See 
Kirch 2008).  This paper seeks to close that gap by using in-depth interviews with 
newspaper reporters who have covered statewide gubernatorial elections that involved 
serious third-party challengers.  The main purpose of this study is to identify the criteria 
political journalists use to determine whether a candidate from outside the Democratic 
and Republican parties is worthy of news coverage.  In addition, this paper identifies both 
practical and ideological reasons to explain why candidates who challenge the 
establishment are often relegated to the sidelines, where their voices are rarely heard.
3


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