Thursday, October 25, 2007

"If you're not with us, you're against us"

One of my young editors at the Taconic Press weekly group in Dutchess County is telling war stories of being verbally accosted as he walks through the streets of his town. Democrats and Republicans angrily blame his paper for giving the other side more favorable coverage.

It's for trying times like these that I invoke to reporters and editors the words of Hyman Roth from "The Godfather," "This is the business we've chosen."

Put another way, when it comes to politics and political campaigns, there's only one kind of "favorable coverage": the kind that favors your candidate. Any attempt at evenhandedness by the press is met with scorn by partisans who imagine negative nuances, and interpret story placement, length and other variables as sure signs of handiwork by the enemy.

It's always been that way, I suppose. But this year seems particularly harsh, not only in the rhetoric being tossed our way, but in the exchanges between the candidates and their supporters.

Politics has always been considered a blood sport, but some of the current campaigns are hemorrhaging.

To be fair to the candidates, most of the really nasty stuff comes from their posses. The question is, are they egged on with a wink and a nod by the people actually seeking the votes, or is it merely a reflection of society's anything goes atmosphere?

Here's the bad part: There's still over a week go to before Election Day. And in virtually every campaign in my memory around here, the last few days herald the mad dash, like the bulls running in Pamplona, with everyone looking for an edge as elbows and taunts fly. For newspapers, that means reporters and editors getting leaned on and mailboxes (e-mail and snail mail) overflowing with last-minute letters to the editor that are too late for publication and in any event offer little more than "so and so is a good person, so vote for him or her." It's also the time when somebody will float a real smear job in hopes of it getting in the paper at the 11th hour to damage the other side. Our editors (and advertising salespeople, for that matter) are particularly vigilant about preventing that.

If this is your cup of tea, enjoy. The rest of us will duck and count the days until the morning after the votes are counted.
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