I was arrested by a statement said by a candidate for the Austin School District Board of Trustees regarding the race for this nonpartisan position.
“I think what’s happened is, through some partisan electronic media, it’s become more partisan,” said Julie Cowan in the Austin American-Statesman, June 10, 2010. It’s the now tried and true tactic, when you are on the defensive, attack the media. After all, it’s the media’s fault anyway. Right? Ms. Cowan had just finished debating her opponent Tamala Barksdale on a local radio station, a form of electronic media.
The early vote for this runoff is tiny, worse than the 2 ½ % turnout for the May election. Mainstream media coverage of this important race barely scratched the surface of voters’ awareness. Now, in the final days leading up to the vote Saturday, May 12th, the race is getting some attention, but according to Ms. Cowan, the problem is the partisan electronic media.
Although the school board is nonpartisan, Ms. Barksdale makes no secret of the fact that she is a Democrat. She says it in her literature. It is no secret. In fact, it is refreshing to know up front about a candidate’s politics. Ms. Cowan does not talk about her political leanings. She did work for a Republican who was a state representative at the time.
I should also mention early on that I hosted an event for Barksdale at my home, and I am a Democratic Party block captain. (It is so liberating to be able to have unabashed politics now that I am no longer part of the mainstream media.) Does that make me part of a downtown political machine?
Most all working reporters and news managers do vote. Some do not vote in primaries, because they say it reveals their party preference. Since one can vote in either primary without being a member of that party, I voted in the primaries. I argue that it deprives me of a Constitutional right when often races are decided at the primary level.
Just because a journalist votes doesn’t mean a journalist cannot be professional and, therefore, balanced and objective.
Certainly, there are “partisan” people in electronic media and print media at the national level, but I challenge Cowan to name the local electronic media who have been making the school board race more partisan. It rarely happens at the local level. Listeners and viewers are so close to their audiences, that it could cost journalists advertisers and even their jobs if they were less than professional. In fact, it has happened.
Lately, candidates on the defensive when asked a tough question, they shoot back, “That’s a ‘gotcha question’, and I refuse to go there.” Then, they return to their prepared “talking points”. I’m sorry. It’s not a “gotcha question”. The simple truth is that it got you, and it might not be in the candidate’s best interest to answer it truthfully and fully.
So, once again, even at the school board level, it’s the media’s fault, specifically the electronic media. Shoot the messenger. The interesting thing about the broadcast or electronic media is that most of a candidate’s machinations are recorded. “The Camera Never Blinks”, was a book by Dan Rather, but of course he too was biased. Right?
© Jim McNabb, 2010