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Friday, September 30, 2005

Should journalists vote?

No, No. I don't mean whether journalists ought to be prohibited from voting, like felons. Although I suspect that is the view of one of my friends in government who remarked favorably on the news that White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan had cut down on the number of press vans in light of the energy crisis. Upon hearing it he said, "That's a good start."

No, I'm bringing up the subject because I thought it odd when someone in the media told me during the last week that he doesn't vote. Over the years, I've heard the same thing from other reporters. Most who don't vote have a self-imposed prohibition against voting in a primary or registering as anything other than an independent in those states which allow registration by party. They will, however, vote in a general election. Others just don't vote at all.

There are some who probably don't vote for the same reason most Americans don't vote. That is, of course, no good reason. But other reporters wear the acknowledgement like a badge of virtue.

This has been discussed at conferences and in journals covering journalism.

I would like to know what you think. My own opinion? I don't consider non-voting a virtue.

And, after all, some in the news media go on to run for office. Notable reporters who did so include Winston Churchill, Jack Kennedy and Al Gore. And before someone brings up the point I will acknowledge that all three gentlemen came from privileged backgrounds. More numerous are the editors and publishers like Horace Greeley, Frank Knox, James Cox, and a fellow from around these parts named Quayle.

And, of course, some have done it more successfully than others. Locally, WKJG anchor Jack Gray lost a race for Sheriff in the '60's. WANE-TV's Mike Barnard lost a race for Congress. But there have been exceptions, too. The News-Sentinel's John Ankenbruck served on the Allen County Council while working as an editorial writer for the paper. Margaret Ankenbruck unsuccessfuly ran for office before she wrote editorials for the News-Sentinel and she successfully ran after she had been an editorial writer. (Maybe winning just has something to do with the name Ankenbruck. Both candidates have credited the old Ankenbruck Funeral Home with part of their electoral success.)

Of course,a candidate running while employed in a news medium position would be verboten today. I imagine a leave might suffice but I suspect most managers would require the reporter to resign.

But is even the simple act of voting too tainted? Virtue or not? Have at it. Post your comments.

It is hard to make me believe by not voting, they're less likely to show bias but it's only the appearance of bias they're trying to avoid (not saying this well). Are they afraid someone will go down and check the records to see what their registration is and then look for signs in their stories that support their choice of party or candidate?

Speaking as one who didn't always vote because of falling into a real funk regarding politics, I regret those years I didn't vote and exercise my choice. Wonder if they foresee a day they might also regret not voting?
One might suspect that not voting is a cop-out for the reporter who will be as biased in reporting as he/she cares to be but can say in all honesty "I didn't vote for/against that candidate."
I'm a journalist who votes. I've only missed a couple of elections in almost 30 years. General election voting is a private matter -- no one knows how I vote, and I don't have to say.

Primary voting is different, though, because in Indiana one must choose a Democratic or Republican ballot. I know a number of people -- journalists and non-journalists -- who won't vote in primaries because they don't want to declare a party.
I agree with Tracy. I often no longer vote in the Primary's because I am a Libertarian. I am neither a Republican or Democrat!

Due to several school board issues in NWAC I will be voting in the next Primary election...
My original plan when I started was to become a journalist. I was a Libertarian back then too, and I felt that it would help my objectivity since I had the same feelings about the Democrats as I did about Republicans. I figured a different reporter could be assigned on those rare occasions when the LP made the news. Now that I am playing an active role in local politics, and LPAC is in the news more often. So I don't think I be objective about anything outside of the sports page.

While some journalists decide to stay out of politics, I am a politician who has decided to stay out of journalism.
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