Should journalists refrain from voting?

And if they don’t, should they make a big deal about why they don’t? The subject came up again today when Birmingham News columnist John Archibald penned a tortuous piece on why he’s not going to the polls. At least to vote. It has to do, of course, with wishing to stay above the fray as a journalist, the noble, detached chronicler to sort things out for the unwashed, emotional, hopelessly biased masses:

“A vote is a thing of value that I will not give. . . . A vote is an overt political act that I can not perform. . . . Voting, pure and simple, means taking a rooting interest.”

Hogwash, baloney and road apples. Pure and simple. Voting is an act of citizenship, above all else. Archibald doesn’t want to feel discomfort “when a politico inevitably asks me how I voted.”  Remind him or her, or anybody else who asks, that the ballot is a secret one.

My former news organization, like many, made it very clear during this election season that we should not affix political bumper stickers to our cars, or plant signs in our yards. That’s fine and very understandable, since those are overt displays of preference.

But not voting because to do so would be to take “a rooting interest?” This is one of toxic effects of what I call the Neutered Newsroom Syndrome — going to such extremes that elevates being a journalist over being a citizen. At all times, apparently. Even above being a human being subject to the same laws as our neighbors, families and friends.

If you choose not to vote, John, well that’s fine by me. There’s no compulsion to do so. But please spare me your self-righteousness. Better yet, just get over yourself.

More diplomatically, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson gently admonishes two colleagues who are in league with Archibald, though he says journalists are “nuts” not to vote:

“I think you can be objective in your work and still have personal opinions. Isn’t that what a professional is? . . . Being a journalist can’t mean giving up your fundamental rights as an American. At least, not for me.”


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