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News Media Unfairness on the Internet

Google News shows how often the Internet news media mention various presidential candidates:

Bush 239,000
Kerry 151,000
Nader 9,400
Cobb 528
Badnarik 472
Peroutka 219

Bush gets more coverage than Kerry. At first I assumed this was due to lots of non-campaign stories focused on President Bush's official duties, but after reviewing the headlines for stories that mention Bush without mentioning Kerry, I don't think coverage of official duties explains why Bush gets 60% more coverage than Kerry. The news media simply focus more on Bush than on Kerry. Bush is President, so he gets more ink. Almost half of the stories about Bush don't even mention Kerry.

More than 80% of the stories about Kerry also mention Bush. The coverage of Kerry consists almost entirely of stories comparing Kerry to Bush.

Kerry is mentioned 16 times more often than Nader. The typical Nader story covers either his various ballot access woes, or his potential for grabbing votes from Kerry (as though Kerry owns them). A typical headline: "Nader Emerging as the Threat Democrats Feared" Polls show that he could influence the outcomes in nine states by drawing support from Mr. Kerry. Nader is treated as the spoiler candidate who took Florida away from Gore in 2000, even though every non-Bush/Gore candidate on the Florida ballot received more than the 527 votes separating Gore from Bush.

Kerry is mentioned 300 times more often than the Green candidate, David Cobb. There is no particular theme to the coverage of Cobb's campaign, but when a major news outlet like The Washington Post covers him, they frame the story like this: "Outside Spotlight, Greens On the Go" Like other minor parties the Greens struggle with the perception that a vote for them is a wasted vote.

Libertarian Badnarik's thin coverage is mostly local stuff covering his appearances at college campuses or his participation in various debates with other non-Bush/Kerry candidates.

Peroutka, the candidate of the Constitution Party, is on more ballots than Nader, but gets the least coverage of those candidates who could, theoretically, receive enough electoral votes to win. Peroutka is the "true" conservative in the race, strict on both social and fiscal issues, and he would follow an isolationist foreign policy.

We in the United States are biased toward a two-party duopoly, and we usually re-elect the incumbent candidates. The Internet news media reflect and promote this bias, making it difficult for so-called "third party" candidates to spread their messages to potential voters.

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