In a column in the Baltimore Sun, journalism professor John F. Kirchdoes a quick tally of coverage of third-party presidential candidates in 2008:
According to a basic Lexis/Nexis database search of election coverage from August 5 to November 5, the Washington Post and the New York Times published a combined 3,576 news stories, editorials, op-eds, photographs and letters to the editor about Mr. Obama and 3,205 items about Mr. McCain. By contrast, the two dailies published only 36 items about independent Ralph Nader, 22 about Libertarian Bob Barr, five about Green Cynthia McKinney and three about the Constitution Party’s Chuck Baldwin.
Why is this a problem? Kirch argues:
The news media are allowing themselves to be co-opted by the Democrats and Republicans into viewing campaigns solely through the prism of the two-party system. This means that the major parties control which issues are permitted into the debate, thus denying the public a chance to hear proposals that might seem extreme today but could gain traction in the future if only voters had an opportunity to consider them more seriously. Remember, third parties have been the catalyst for many reforms throughout American history, including the abolition of slavery, tough child-labor laws, free public education, strong business regulations, direct election of senators and women’s suffrage.
For more, see FAIR’s “More Than a Two-Person Race,” 10/21/08