The mayor's race: Campaign coverage and the discourse of race in America's three largest cities

Limor Peer, James S. Ettema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In the coverage of recent mayoral campaigns in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, objective news reporting worked as an ideological force. First, the press viewed the campaigns as horse races driven by the logic of racial strategy, and the urban public as fundamentally constituted by racial and ethnic blocs. Particularly in its fascination with polling, campaign coverage focused on carefully delineating those blocs and obsessively measuring the gaps between them. Second, campaign coverage naturalized this view when it uncritically accepted race and ethnicity as appropriate tools of practical electoral politics. Through its emphasis on strategy, the news implied that mayoral politics is conducted in the most reasonable way - perhaps, the only way - possible. Finally, and ironically, campaign coverage was ideological in its persistent disregard of the social issues for which race really does matter. The news constantly asserted that race is the only real issue but rarely reported on why that is and what is to be done. Since this discourse adheres to the conventions of modern journalism and seems to be grounded in reality, it is particularly pernicious: It interacts with and helps maintain a basic reality in which race is intrinsic to politics. The ideological import and the practical consequence of this discourse is the construction of the terrible inevitability of racial division.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-278
Number of pages24
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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