Election night is an exciting and stressful time for journalists. What I and many of my colleagues find most stressful about vote nights is not the fast-paced scramble to get out the news when it happens, but rather the nervous waits for poll returns and other news we are anxious to report. It can be mentally stifling.
In my case, as an editor and page designer, I work on stories and place photos from local journalists and national news wire services.
It was about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday when I began to write this post, and I was excited because a flurry of stories was about to come my way. Media outlets, including our own, were frantically reporting that President Obama had won re-election, along with other confirmed results.
My staff, the night news and digital department, posts stories to our website and social media sites and helps to produce three regional newspapers each night. Election night, I was focused on editing and designing pages for the Evening Sun. But I also could not help but reflect on a couple of election-related topics.
VOTING WITH KIDS:
I mentioned to my colleagues how my wife and I took our kids to vote. The election workers remembered my family.
“Look how big you are getting,” one worker said in a friendly voice.
Thankfully, she was talking to our kids and not to me.
My wife held the baby as she went to the voting machine, and I took our two young daughters to my machine. They took turns as I picked them up and let them know which circles to push.
I have to say, I feel bad for them. When I was a kid, it was much more exciting to go to the polls with a parent. Instead of touching a computer screen, I helped my parents vote in those huge voting booths, filled with switches and that giant lever you got to pull at the end.
THE RIGHT TO VOTE:
Taking my kids to the polls is important to me because I want them to learn the importance of the right and privilege of voting. I want them to grow into adults who can make their own determination about who would best serve their communities and nation.
I hope they will exercise their right to vote when they become adults, but of course, that will be up to them.
This brings me to an important argument where I tend to depart from many of my colleagues in journalism. We start out on the same page. Journalists of many stripes are known for encouraging members of their community to vote. I think this is a fine thing for us to do, and it fits our position as public servants.
My disagreement begins when I hear folks, including many journalists say: “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain.”
I would urge my friends in the media to stop short of making this statement because I think it departs from two important core values of journalism.
The first of these is the freedom of speech. It is unusual indeed to hear journalists argue that certain people should not speak their minds because they belong to a particular group. Yet, this is what happens when journalists tell the segment of the population that chooses not to vote that they “don’t have a right to complain.”
The other core value I’m talking about is a commitment to truth. The truth is, in our democracy, citizens have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, whether they vote or not. No law on the books states otherwise.
– Matt Anderson