From the moment I became an editor in the news department of a community newspaper in 1992 in Lafayette, Indiana, I have always registered to vote as an independent.
It may seem like a small gesture — the snarky might call it empty — but I think it’s worthwhile to make it clear that the editor of the community newspaper is not affiliated in any way with a political party.
I’ve long believed that journalists should not be political advocates in any way. I’ve never given a nickel to a political campaign. I don’t put political (or actually any) bumper stickers on my car or campaign signs in my yard.
But every chance I get in a general election, I vote.
Last week, as the primary season heated up with Super Tuesday’s primaries in 14 states, some journalism colleagues took to debating whether reporters and editors should vote.
My argument has always been that though it’s important to be unaffiliated, I did not give up my U.S. citizenship when I signed on to run a news organization. There’s not much that’s more important for a citizen to do than voting.
In a column about all this in the New York Times last week, Phillip Corbett, the newspaper’s standards editor, agreed.
“I think voting is a baseline action as a citizen,” Corbet said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable suggesting that our journalists shouldn’t vote.”
In that same Times column, Peter Baker, the Times’ chief White House correspondent, explained why he doesn’t vote.
“For me, it’s easier to stay out of the fray if I never make up my mind, even in the privacy of the kitchen or the voting booth, that one candidate is better than another, that one side is right and the other wrong,” Baker said.
I disagree. Media outlets and the people who work for them should be judged on how fairly they cover an election.
I not only think it’s possible for reporters and editors to vote and still report objectively, I think it is important that they do so.
I hope you noticed a column we ran online and in print on Wednesday from Christopher Baxter, editor of the not-for-profit watchdog journalism organization, Spotlight PA.
I worked with Baxter and his colleagues over the past few months for The Daly Item and the four other CNHI newsrooms to become partners with Spotlight PA. The partnership became official on Wednesday. We published our first Spotlight PA story Thursday online and Friday in print — a concerning piece about how top officials with the Pennsylvania Senate scrubbed thousands of detailed explanations about its expenses from official records requested by two news organizations, raising alarm among open records and good-government advocates.
Spotlight PA, as noted on its website, “is dedicated to producing nonpartisan investigative journalism about Pennsylvania government and urgent statewide issues.” Majority funding comes from the nonprofit Lenfest Institute for Journalism, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive/Patriot-News each provide a reporter.
Partnering with Spotlight PA allows us to add another layer of in-depth state reporting to what we already do with our own Harrisburg reporter, John Finnerty, and with our CNHI colleagues around the state in Johnstown, Sharon, New Castle, and Meadville.
I’m certain you’re going to enjoy reading Spotlight’ PA’s good work.
Email comments to email@example.com.