Oklahoman forum exclusion shows media bias

Upon learning that The Oklahoman plans to host a gubernatorial candidate forum on Sept. 24th that features only the Republican and Democrat nominees, Libertarian candidate Chris Powell observed that it is a clear case of biased coverage. Powell, who won the Libertarian nomination in the runoff on August 28th, said “My name will be at the top of every ballot in the state, but the Oklahoman doesn’t think voters need to know about their first option.” The Libertarian Party won the ballot order drawing held by the State Election Board on July 12th, meaning their candidates will be listed first in all partisan races.

“This is just one more example of the failure of the state’s largest newspaper to inform voters,” said Powell, “there hasn’t been a single article in the Oklahoman dedicated to the campaign of any Libertarian candidate since April 2nd.” The Libertarian Party is participating in a gubernatorial election for the first time after presidential candidate Gary Johnson received sufficient votes in 2016 to keep the party on the ballot. Oklahoma voters have not had the opportunity to choose an alternative party candidate for Governor since 1998. The race for the LP nomination between Powell, Rex Lawhorn, and Joe Exotic was only the second gubernatorial primary in Oklahoma for a party other than Republican or Democrat and the runoff between Powell and Lawhorn was the first such contest for Libertarians anywhere in the country. “Things like this that have not happened in a long time, or never before, are newsworthy,” states Powell.

Powell believes that traditional media would not just better serve the public by seeking to be inclusive, but would improve it’s own fortunes as well. “The purpose of a newspaper publisher is to sell news,” he explained, “if potential readers don’t feel like they are going to get the whole story from a particular source they’ll look elsewhere, or not at all. On the other hand, more comprehensive coverage would inspire confidence and stories about issues and candidates that voters otherwise might not learn of will result in a more informed electorate and work to make elections less dependent upon other factors such as money and partisanship. This can’t help but increase a newspaper’s bottom line at a time when many are struggling.” Powell urges The Oklahoman to include him in their upcoming forum, noting that similar events hosted by organizations such as the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association, Oklahoma Watch, and the Oklahoma Academy are seeking participation from all three candidates.