Wick Communications

Candidates clam up

In Elections on October 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

Perhaps more than ever, candidates hate our guts. OK, I don’t mean that. What I mean is that increasingly they feel they don’t need journalists to tell their stories.

Social media has changed the political game in many ways. Barack Obama was famous for marshaling the tools of Web 2.0 to bypass the mainstream media and communicate directly with an adoring public. In the parlance of the day, Obama went viral. Actually, while the tools have changed, the concept is nothing new. Ronald Reagan liked to pit an “elitist,” “liberal” media against the everyman who voted for him. Richard Nixon did it a decade before Reagan. Heck, Andrew Jackson made a political career for himself in the 19th century by reminding folks he wasn’t one of the elite crowd from the north.

I was reminded of that tradition when I read this story from Washington state. Candidates know they can use the public’s mistrust of reporters to their advantage and they don’t have to depend on us to disseminate their messages either…

You would do well to remember this as well. There is no law that says candidates have to submit to one-on-one interviews with you. They don’t have to grace your endorsement meetings. Consequently, you have to court them a bit. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Be fair. And I mean always. Invite all the legitimate candidates to your election gatherings. Give them equal time.
  • Be calm. You don’t have to argue the issues with politicians. In fact, it’s almost never a good idea. Understand that people carry irrational grudges. If you get in a war of words with Candidate X in the Piggly Wiggly, he may snub you two years later when he’s running for Congress.
  • Be generous. Not with your money, but with your time. People who run for office are egomaniacs. OK, strike that. Let’s just say they think they have something to say that is worth listening to. So hear them out. Give them your time and they will likely respond in kind.

In 25 years of reporting and editing, I don’t think I’ve ever had a candidate flat-out refuse to talk to me. I’m kind of proud of that.

Clay

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