One of the frustrating things about corporate media coverage is that it’s so focused on horserace coverage–who’s likely to win or lose in voting that might be months or years away–and yet they’re so bad at it.
Take the matter of Jonathan Tasini, running in the Democratic senatorial primary in New York against incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand–and an apparent nonperson to the state’s most powerful newspaper, the New York Times.
The Times has lately run two extensive stories (1/11/11, 1/13/10) on whether Harold Ford, a former representative from Tennessee, would also run against Gillibrand–both of which ignored the fact that it was already a two-person race. Tasini, a writer and labor organizer, ran once before for the same seat, and got 17 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton–a politician with greater name recognition than either Gillibrand or Ford.
You don’t have to be Nate Silver to realize that a candidate who has the possibility to get 17 percent of the vote could have a major impact in a three-person race; even if you have a crystal ball that tells you that Tasini won’t get more than that this time, it’s impossible to handicap the primary without having some sense of who those voters are and what they are likely to do faced with three choices.
But the Times, playing the traditional role of gatekeeper that powerful media outlets assign themselves in covering elections, evidently views Tasini as a gatecrasher and seems determined to ignore him–even if it means giving readers an incomplete and misleading view of the electoral landscape.
(I should note that I know Tasini, who wrote a report on media coverage of labor for Extra! back in 1990.)