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October 29, 2008

A poll, of sorts

Here's a question for all of you who are still gainfully employed at newspapers. That means on staff or as a contractual freelancer who is required to report all potential conflicts of interest. Do you think you can answer Bob's call below to do everything you can to help the candidate of his - and my - choice? Do arts journalists have to give up their right to engage in the political process if they are paid by the MSM?

I ask this because I actually hesitated before jumping into the Obama campaign, even though I haven't drawn a staff salary from a newspaper since 2001. I had this irrational fear that it could be used against me some day. Remember that big expose of the "liberal media elites" last year, the one that revealed the names of 143 journalists who made political contributions over a three-year period?  Blasphemy! A film critic gave money to John Kerry. Horrors! Another film critic donated to the RNC. Scandal! A copy editor contributed to the DNC. What's this copy editor going to do, split some infinitives for the cause? 

At any rate, given the resurgence of the cultural wars (thanks to Sarah Palin, who is reframing the debate as the Hockey Mom vs. the Harvard Man), I can sort of understand why news organizations that are hanging on by a thread don't want to stir up controversy. It certainly makes sense that anyone covering a political beat should steer clear of any apparent conflict of interest. But should these same rules apply to arts journalists or copy editors or the guy who fries the burgers in the company cafeteria? 

For me, this election is too important to worry about what might be on the public record a few years from now. I was out there last weekend, ringing doorbells in New Hampshire, and I haven't felt as alive and engaged in a long time. The people of New Hampshire have been hearing about this for a loooong time, and who knew they could be so patient and polite? Every conversation, yay or nay, was invigorating. Here's one: A big, burly guy in Patriots pajamas opened his door, a bit of a scowl on his face. He took one look at my ObamaMama (mother of three) t-shirt, grinned, and said, "I'm a Teamster. You've got my vote." 

So can arts journalists do this work? I'd love to hear what others think. My answer is simple: Yes We Can.

October 29, 2008 9:19 AM | | Comments (0)

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