I’m voting for …

By Tonie Auer
ASBPE National Blog Chairwoman and DFW Chapter President
In this heated election year when politics are on everyone’s lips, Poynter brought up the valuable question of whether or not journalists should be allowed to speak up about which candidate they support.

Kelly McBride at Poynter Online addressed this topic with “Should Journalists Declare Party Allegiance” in a post about ethics and it is a fabulous topic with which we can all identify. I know you will all be shocked to hear that most journalists are very passionate about their beliefs. Yes, it is true.

While we endeavor to never slant our news coverage based on our own personal biases, I know I’ve read many “news” stories where I could read between the lines and tell you exactly that writer’s political leanings. That isn’t the majority of articles, though. Most writers can keep their feelings in check long enough to write the story – maybe while choking back the bile – and give equal coverage to all sides of an issue while allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions without a hint of what the writer thought about the whole situation.

Do, we, as journalists, have a right to our own opinions? Do we have a right to campaign however we would like? The answer is yes and no. We never want to give anyone a chance to point a finger and say “look, he is not going to cover the election fairly because he is wearing a candidate’s button on his shirt!” Or driving with a candidate’s bumper sticker on his car, or … you get the picture.

How would it look to pull up to the polls on Election Day to talk to potential voters while you’re wearing your candidate’s button on your shirt? Whether you can write objectively or not, it is about appearances. We want, no we need, to both be neutral and appear neutral.

Does this mean that you can’t man a phone bank for your candidate? I don’t think so. I certainly see no problem in making phone calls and identifying yourself by first name only. A yard sign for your candidate is probably ok, too. I wouldn’t put a bumper sticker on my car or sport a T-shirt for my candidate while on the job, though.

Whether we like or not, we are an extension of the publication for which we write or edit. To that end, we have to maintain neutrality in every possible way.
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