Oh the joys of election time

Dianne St. Jean
Oh the joys of election time

I have a confession to make. I really don’t like election time. Even before entering the world of running a newspaper, I have found election dialogue to often be too negative and antagonistic than is necessary. 

It raises an even greater challenge when you’re in the newspaper business. As in the case of the United States, the newspaper or media agent is often judged by what they perceive to cover or not cover, and how they cover it.

Oh how I can relate.

It’s been my experience so far, in covering municipal elections and by-elections, and now a provincial race, that what the public often gets or assumes they get, usually has an interesting background story that alters the outward impression.  Of course this also applies to other sectors, such as current news.

In other words, there is often very good reason why some things appear to be left out (often presumed to be on purpose), or why some detail is seemingly omitted.

What most people don’t realize is that often the newspaper world is only as good as what we get in terms of cooperation and information. Put it another way – if you don’t give it to us or tell us about it – how are we supposed to know? And, if the newspaper is ethical, they cannot deliberately leave out facts or pick and choose details that they know, in doing so, will change the “flavour” of the article much in the same way leaving out the cocoa no longer qualifies a cake as chocolate.

Having said that, back to the election blog. One of the biggest things that I have found frustrating in the newspaper business is when you ask a candidate for a photo, or you send them a set of questions, or request an interview.

Theoretically, the process should be simple – you ask, they deliver - but alas, it never is. Invariably there’s always those few whom you have to go chasing after, calling or emailing again for the material, following up with reminders, and in some cases you still don’t get the stuff, or it comes in after your deadline (a concept by the way that some never seem to grasp). 

So why keep pursuing them, some people ask? 

Well, first to provide each candidate with equal opportunity to address the same issues and be presented in the same way. It’s an attempt to make the playing field as even as possible; but as I said, that doesn’t always happen. 

Then there’s the issue of individuals who insist on responding in a different format, whether in length or tone or completely ignoring the real questions and going off on a personal tangent, which has the potential of totally screwing up your plans for a neat and tidy and organized presentation. Worse, though, is when, even after asking someone both verbally and sending reminders, you get no response at all. So, you work with what you have. Awkward.

So, you say, too bad for the candidate. Not that simple. Sometimes it is presumed that you are the one who has left out the information. Ahh – the newspaper must be bias! Well, I guess that’s being part of the media world.

Oh, but for the good old days when all I had to do at election time was cast my vote.

Then again, I suppose I should be grateful that I don’t live in a country where, if you even appear to say or not say the right thing, you can easily disappear, or that allows me to make a choice at leadership, whether or not others agree with that choice.  Ahh. Democracy - where you’re allowed pretty much all the freedom in the world to say what you want without reprisal. Just ask our neighbours south of us.