10 September 2010
The News Media Discovers an Independent Candidate for Governor
Kristin Davis held a press conference in Albany to publicize her campaign for governor of New York on the Anti-Prohibition party line. She was assured of some coverage due to her notoriety as the "Manhattan Madam," but that notoriety was also bound to make her campaign look frivolous. What surprised me about the coverage, based on a Google search, wasn't the extent to which anyone took Davis seriously but the fact that most reporters wrote as if her campaign had just started. Davis had, in fact, submitted petitions to secure her line on the November ballot several weeks ago, but her submission, and those of several other independent candidates, were overshadowed by Carl Paladino's. His claim of an independent line was newsworthy because he remains a contender for the Republican nomination, and his fresh determination to campaign actively as the Taxpayers candidate should he lose the GOP primary is deemed likely to make a difference in the general election. By comparison, Davis is dismissed as a potential factor in the final outcome, despite her protest that equal coverage from the media might level the playing field a little. As always, of course, newspapers and TV apportion coverage based on preconceptions of each candidate's chance of winning, rather than treating all candidates who've earned ballot lines equally. The Albany Times Union, at least, used Davis's press conference as an opportunity to remind readers that there are, in fact, more than three choices (Cuomo, Lazio, Paladino) for governor this year, getting quotes from Green candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich as well as Davis while acknowledging the existence of still more contenders. Regardless of whether the report seems condescending, the paper has at least performed a public service that it ought to repeat more frequently.