Should Political Journalists Vote?

By Jennifer Parker

Feb 13, 2008 5:42pm

Over at the Politico, three journalists I respect a great deal — Mike Allen, John Harris, and Jim VandeHei — weigh in on whether political journalists should vote.

Allen says no.

"The first time I thought about the special duty journalists owe to voters and candidates was during my freshman year at Washington and Lee University, where I was covering student-body elections for the paper, which believe it or not is called The Ring-tum Phi," Allen writes. "You voted in a big barrel in the freshman quad and I started to walk over there but then realized that if I dropped in a slip of paper, the candidates I’d been covering and the readers who trusted me could see me and know that I wasn’t neutral in my heart.

VandeHei says sometimes.

After covering the 2004 presidential election, and knowing he "would be covering the winner on the White House beat,… I decided to sit out the presidential race if for no other reason than, if asked, I could honestly explain to readers that I did not vote for or against either man. …This symbolic step keeps my skeptic’s edge sharp."

Harris says yes.

"(C)oming to a conclusion about whom I support and expressing that in the voting booth does not compromise me as a journalist," Harris writes. "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."

Read their arguments HERE.

Personally, I’m more in the Allen camp. I think a vote is an investment, and even though clearly readers of this blog seem to think it’s obvious that I’m hopelessly biased in favor/against Clinton, Obama, Edwards, McCain, Huckabee, Romney, Giuliani, and on and on, and that it’s abundantly clear that I’m a Democrat/Republican/Reform party member, I truly try to stay as agnostic as possible.

I remember once covering a race after I had voted in it by absentee ballot. It was weird. I’d invested in the candidate. I’d made a choice. I didn’t like it.

I didn’t vote in 2004, and won’t this year, either. It’s just my personal choice; I don’t think journalists who vote are any less objective.

– jpt

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