Monday, October 23, 2006

Campaign Season becomes Crabby Season

I have worked on daily newspapers more than 30 years. Over that time, a journalist can get a feel for campaign season.

In the final two or three weeks before Election Day, people get crabbier. And suspicious. And accusatory. Folks will find reason to complain. It is “crunch time.” The stakes are high. Many people are working night and day for their candidates or issues, and the strain is starting to show.

Democrat or Republican, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a non-partisan reality.
This campaign season is no exception.

It has gotten to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised to receive a complaint that, if the Telegraph Herald carrier tosses the paper toward the left half of a subscriber’s front porch, that will prove the paper’s liberal bias. Or, on the right half, our conservative leanings.

Over just the past couple of days, I have been called a socialist. We lost a subscriber because we covered Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s speech at Clarke College without challenging all his statements and detailing the skeletons in his family’s closet. Another subscriber said my decisions on what letters to the editor are published are based on the TH Editorial Board’s endorsements.
The various complaints of excessive liberalism or conservatism don’t surprise me. The stronger people hold to his or her beliefs, the more likely they are to consider media coverage or commentary to be unfair and contrary to their opinions.

In a scientific survey we commissioned a year or so ago — the great majority of respondents said the TH was neither liberal or conservative. Among those who felt otherwise, about half said we are liberal and the other half said we are conservative. I figure that’s a good place to be.

One thing has changed, at least in my observation, over the past three decades. It’s unfortunate that people seem less willing to accept that folks who hold a different opinion are not automatically bad, evil or stupid.

Democracy is about discussion, debate and decisions. Thoughtful people should be able to disagree without demonizing the other side. But it seems that people are less willing to believe that.

Take heart: Two weeks from Tuesday, Election 2006 will be history.


Anonymous said...

I fully agree with your comments about the political incivility that has become a part of our world. You correctly describe how intolerant people are of others' opinions.

I believe a large cause for this in Dubuque is the one-sided viewpoint we get from weekday radio on KDTH. All day long, the hosts of the syndicated programs display the very behavior your column described: demonizing and ridiculing people with opposing views, labeling them as stupid, unpatriotic, or evil. This apparently gets ratings for their shows. But it is not good for civil discourse. Every disagreement on the issues turns into a personal attack on the individual.

I would like to take heart that the election is only a couple of weeks away. But the truth is, Dubuque has this kind of programming every weekday throughout the year. It doesn't end with the election. It's not just "Crabby Season." We have become a "Crabby Nation." I can turn off the radio, but that doesn't change the fact that this is how people today have learned to "discuss" political issues.

Anonymous said...

In regards to the last comment, are you sure you don't mean WDBQ. Have you checked out its programming as of late?

Anonymous said...

As stated in your post, it doesn't help the perception of bias when your editors and reporters do not challenge the subject of the report with equal vigor and sometimes venom.

The Supreme Court made things worse by upholding McCain-Feingold. Now, the bias in the media weighs heavily on the public.

I will be waiting to see if you ane the rest of the Editorial Board will weigh in on these propagandistic hit ads by Michael J. Fox. From a letter to the editor you published today, I doubt you will point out the inaccuracies and the blatant propaganda being passed as a "PSA" by the broadcasting stations.

I think I missed your deadline for a political letter, but even you have to admit your letters have been pretty one sided and that side has been allowed to spew some very inaccurate propaganda, like today's letter on environment spending and green energy. It was fill of crap.