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Reporters don’t vote in partisan primary elections, or attend caucuses

Post by Joe Turner on Feb. 3, 2008 at 9:03 pm with No Comments »
February 3, 2008 9:03 pm

News Tribune Executive Editor David Zeeck wrote about the newspaper’s policy on the uncoming presidential primary election and caucuses in today’s paper.

Washington primary ballots began arriving in mailboxes Saturday and the party caucuses occur this Saturday.

Because both parties have real contests for their presidential nominations, and because Washington is the only Northwest state with an early primary, Washingtonians who vote in the primary or participate in caucuses here may actually have an impact on the nomination in one or both parties.

We’ll cover the party caucuses and the primary votes with interest, but we’re asking our news staff to participate in neither.

We have no restrictions on staffers voting in general or special elections. We ask them to check their preferences and biases at the door of the newsroom. But they’re citizens, too, and we encourage them to exercise their rights in picking candidates and voting for or against ballot measures in open elections conducted by secret ballot.

But caucuses and primaries aren’t general elections – they’re activities of political parties. One has to record allegiance to one party to participate. The caucuses and primaries are set up for party members to decide who will represent the party in elections to follow or for party members to demonstrate who they favor.

We ask our newsroom staff not to participate in any party activities. For anyone covering anything even remotely political or for any supervising editor in the newsroom, participation in caucuses or primaries is actually prohibited.

For staffers who neither cover nor edit anything political we strongly discourage them from participating. If they do participate, we require them to tell us of their participation so we can make sure they aren’t involved in any political coverage or in any decisions about political coverage.

To be a journalist at The News Tribune, one surrenders some privileges. Political activism is out. Fund raising must be approved by top editors. (If someone rejects your appeal for funds, they might worry about how they will be covered by the newspaper.) Staff members can’t be publicists of civic organizations they belong to. The newspaper reserves the right to prohibit staff members from writing for competing media.

It seems to us a small price to prevent the entrenchment and to limit the perception of bias by staffers.

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