Sometimes, the only thing more painful than watching the corporate media is hearing its reporters justify its failings.
Yesterday, Suzanne Geha–a news reader at WOOD TV 8 here in Grand Rapids–wrote a post for her blog about third party candidates. According to Geha, the corporate media is the only thing that informs people of third party candidates–some of whom aren’t even bothering to campaign. Geha writes:
“Guess what? There are candidates on your ballot who aren’t campaigning, not one bit, nada. They’re running for office, but you wouldn’t know it. They’re not making any public appearances, not going door-to-door, not holding rallies or fundraisers, not spending any money on pamphlets, yard signs, phone calls, ads. At least one I spoke with doesn’t have a computer or fax; another I spoke with hasn’t watched t.v. in twenty years and claims to be too busy to campaign.
So I felt compelled to ask, “Why is it you’re running for office?” One told me to bring name recognition and to promote her third party. When I asked another third party candidate why he’s running, he answered with a question mark.
It brings me to this point. For many third party candidates in your local races, the only way you’ll see or hear or read anything about them is because the media make sure we include them in our election coverage. That’s the only way they’re on air, on line, or in the newspaper. So check out this website and catch us on the air to see who’s who on your ballot.”
Of course, some of this jumps out as immediately ridiculous. For starters, Geha never mentions the candidates with whom she spoke. But more importantly, Geha’s statement is riddled with false information. Most often, the media does not include third party candidates in local, state, and national races. Sure, they might mention them, but that hardly is sufficient means of covering them–especially compared to the coverage given to major candidates. Third party candidates are typically excluded from most coverage or relegated to the local media’s online coverage. She also fails to mention that third party candidates face a number of structural hurdles from ballot access to fundraising that make it hard for candidates to compete.
To their credit, WOOD TV 8’s website does have a better voters guide than WZZM 13. For example, in the 3rd Congressional district race, they have video interviews with all of the candidates running–including Libertarian candidate Erwin Haas. The channel does provide links to each of the candidates’ websites, but does not link to any independent websites that would allow voters to look at incumbent Vern Ehlers’ voting record.
However, in other races, they don’t fair as well. There are no interviews with the candidates for US Senate in Michigan and the channel fails to list three candidates in the race. Similarly, for the Michigan House of Representatives, there are interviews with only some of the candidates. WOOD TV 8 says that they invited all of the candidates to do an interview, but some were unable to fit it into their schedules. While this is understandably frustrating, it does not excuse the fact that no attempt to provide voters with additional online information was made.
Moreover, WOOD TV 8’s flagship politics show “To The Point” has only featured candidates from the two major parties since the start of the election. When the show covered the presidential election with interviews from the candidates, it focused exclusively on the two major party candidates.
Over here at MediaMouse.org, we’re not convinced that the corporate media–including WOOD TV 8–is really doing all that much to make third party candidates visible. In fact, if the “only way” they can hope to get noticed is through the local media, they had better all give up now–because they don’t have a chance.