A new review by the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has found that third party candidates are largely excluded from major newscasts’ coverage of the presidential race:
“According to a Nexis news database search of the major network newscasts, McKinney’s name has never been mentioned this year on the networks’ news programs, while Barr and Nader’s candidacies have garnered a total of only 31 mentions between them (15 times on ABC, 12 times on NBC and 4 on CBS). Including the Fox network– which airs Fox News Sunday on its broadcast affiliates–yields one passing mention of Nader, and an interview with Barr (6/29/08). PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer offered passing mentions of Nader and Barr when they announced their candidacies (2/25/08, 5/12/08); more recently, the show has interviewed each of them one-on-one (10/14/08, 10/20/08).”
The context in which Barr and Nader have been covered is worth examining; by FAIR’s count, many of the references to the candidates dealt primarily with the potential effect on the fortunes of the major-party candidates–i.e., whether a third-party candidate would be a “spoiler.” That accounted for 11 mentions of Barr and Nader.
Passing mentions of Nader or Barr accounted for another 13 mentions; four of these were joking or mocking references to Nader. (ABC’s This Week includes humor clips from late-night talkshows, two of which included Nader as a punch line.)”
Here in Grand Rapids, third party candidates have also been largely ignored by the corporate media. A search of the city’s only daily newspaper–The Grand Rapids Press–finds limited coverage of the candidates and next to no coverage of their policy positions.
Independent candidate Ralph Nader was mentioned in the Press 8 times. However, most of this coverage was negative including two columns attacking Nader. Most of these mentions were exactly that–mentions–tending to be under one-hundred words. The only article written by a Press reporter about the campaign focused on whether or not Nader would be a “spoiler” this election.
Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has been mentioned only once in 76-word mention that she has chosen a “hip-hop running mate.”
Libertarian candidate Bob Barr has been mentioned 6 times. Like Nader, his mentions–almost always brief and without information about specific policy recommendations–focus on his potential to act as a so-called “spoiler.”
Far right Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin was mentioned in the Press the twice. Unlike the other third party candidates, an article on the Party–focusing on its decision to locate its headquarters in Wyoming–contained a short list of policy positions. The Press reported that Baldwin seeks to balance the budget, stop undocumented immigration, abolish federal income tax, slash government programs, seal the border with Mexico and get U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan “as expeditiously as possible.”
Unfortunately, the Grand Rapids Press continues to treat third party candidates as insignificant curiosities, just as the national media does. However, by taking this position, the Press contributes to the candidates’ further marginalization and prevents the possibility of more voices entering debate.