Friday, February 15, 2008

Should Journalists Vote?

Posted by Greg Hambrick on Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 11:57 AM

There are conversations at Politico and The Fix about whether journalists should vote. A rundown of some of the arguments for and against are below, but here's my take. I vote. Every chance I get. There are a few reasons. Easiest among them is that I consider it my responsibility just as much as we writers preach that it's your responsibility.

What readers and sources should be assured is that my reporting will be fair to all sides (and I go to exhausting lengths, particularly in election stories). What they should not be assured is that I'm going to sacrifice my private vote, particularly in races where it could impact the best interests of my family. My guess is that journalists who sacrifice their vote just haven't had the right motivation yet.

Here are a few other perspectives:

Mike Allen: "I'm part of a minority school of thought among journalists that we owe it to the people we cover, and to our readers, to remain agnostic about elections, even in private. I figure that if the news media serve as an (imperfect) umpire, neither team wants us taking a few swings."

Jim VandeHei: "Politico does not cover local elections or school boards, so I see no reason to sit on the sidelines in those decisions. In spirit of full disclosure, I don't register as a Republican or Democrat when I do cast those votes."

John Harris: "My belief is that being a journalist for an ideologically neutral publication like Politico, or the Washington Post, where I used to work, does not mean having no opinions. It means exercising self-discipline in the public expression of those opinions so as not to give sources and readers cause to question someone's commitment to fairness."

Chris Cillizza: "First, I generally agree with Mike Allen's point that neutral means neutral; objectivity in covering these races means that you stay objective before, during and after the contests. As, or perhaps more, importantly, however, is the obsession among some people to sniff out a reporter's "secret" political leanings. Time and time again, I find people commenting on this blog and elsewhere accusing me of having a pro-Clinton or pro-Obama or pro-McCain or pro-someone else viewpoint. I know in my hearts of hearts that I don't have any of those biased viewpoints, but if I did vote -- even in a local or county election -- it would add fuel to the fire of those folks who think I am a secret partisan."

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