Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Electing to not elect

As usual I have a lot to do, but have decided to tend to my personal blog instead.

This issue is timely because it's an election day, albeit a small election day. A year ago we were voting on a president, members of congress and the statehouse. This year it's sales tax renewals and smoking bans in the area. For my newspaper, all we're covering is the law enforcement sales tax renewal.

I'm not voting this time around because I'm not registered. I haven't voted in the past couple elections. It's mainly been because I've been moving around too much or just too darn lazy to register. I voted in the presidential primary in another state, then a few months later moved up here. This combination of moving around and laziness for once worked to my advantage.

Long has there been the debate about whether journalists should even be registered to vote - let alone carry out their civic duty. My personal belief has been we should exercise that right. I don't buy the "You can't blame me because I didn't vote" excuse. You had an opportunity to affect the outcome. I think we have to be careful with local elections when voting as journalists, but national elections never bothered me.

Back to my point, electing to not elect enhanced my work performance. We'll get to that in a moment. First, some background.

I've always felt like I'm a pretty non-partisan guy. When I was 18, I registered as a Democrat - much to my father's dismay. In college, I voted for the failed Green Party. Later in college, I registered as a Republican. I've always felt it's more important to have a good leader surrounded by sound checks and balances than to vote purely on political affiliation. I assume everyone has the best intentions (unless otherwise uncovered), so throw that part out of the equation. Political affiliation does not make someone good or evil. A good leader will listen to the people, follow the checks and balances; therefore make the best decisions. If an idea on their platform does not suit the constituents or gets booed by the checks and balances, it will get thrown out and the best idea comes to fruition. A bad leader can have the best ideas, but with poor execution can never get it done or not do it right.

I digress.

With all the town hall meetings and tea parties full of angry Republicans, I found myself faced with people looking at me with distrustful eyes. I am, after all, part of the "Liberal media."

At one local tea party rally, I took a photo of a man wearing a patriotic shirt and a flag pole with two flags: the United States flag and a "Don't Tread on Me" flag. When I asked for his name, he replied, "Depends, who did you vote for?"

To me, it doesn't matter. To him, it's a matter of whether he trusts this journalist. What "slant" am I going to take on this story? As they stated many times during the rally, the media has been "downplaying" these rallies. I'm holding back obscenities here, but that makes no freakin' sense to me. Anyway, I told him I didn't vote.

I was met with more skepticism and distrust by him.

"Why not?" he asked.

I explained the aforementioned. I also told him I'm a non-partisan guy and here for unbiased reporting. Still seeming skeptic, he told me his name and thoughts on the situation.

That leads to another problem. There is also mistrust when you don't vote. Especially among some the Republican crowds. To many of them the mindset is, "Don't you know how many people have died for your freedom to do this? So go vote!" They can't comprehend why we would need to stay unbiased, until we vote for someone they don't agree with.

It's usually a lose-lose situation.

But in this case, I guess I won.

1 comment:

  1. Ethically, I think journalists shouldn't vote.

    As a journalist, I refused to let myself form an opinion on any election - local or national. In ever had to lie when asked about my vote, nor did I have to hedge. My answer was always the same: "If I let myself form an opinion, how can I guarantee the unbiased reporting readers deserve?" Only journalists ever argued with me.

    Most reporters counter my arguments by telling me that they are professional enough to keep any bias they have from their reporting. To that, I always say, "Bias that doesn't exist can't accidentally creep into coverage." If reviewed later, you can't prove a reporter is a Democrat if you can't find his name on the list of registered Democrats, right?

    It's true that good journalists can write around their bias. However, if you don't allow yourself to form an opinion, then you don't have to worry about it.

    When journalists provide unbiased reporting they are allowing readers to form their own opinions about the election. This, to me, is the civic duty of a journalist. By not voting, a journalist doesn't mess with the system, she supports it. Is that one journalist's vote so important that a risk of biased coverage (influencing multiple voters) is justified?