Living in Society Writing

Writing About the School Board Election

Before the Poll Opens, Nov. 3, 2010

Today’s edition of the Solon Economist hasn’t been posted on line. The paper copy will arrive with the letter carrier late today, although I may try to find one on the way to my shift at the home, farm and auto supply store.

Once I read the school board candidate questionnaire responses, I will have finished gathering most of the input to determine which two of six candidates for whom I’ll vote on Nov. 5. After determining my votes I’ll begin outreach to friends and neighbors asking them to vote with me. My initial canvass indicated many people don’t plan to vote this election. In a low-information, low-turnout election, that could be the difference in which candidates are the top vote-getters.

When writing about the election there is a line between public and private information. I’ve been diligent about keeping emails, phone calls and meetings private even if they help inform my choice of candidates. It would be unfair and wrong to disclose publicly what someone told me privately. I can see why journalists and responsible bloggers try to keep those separate.

Neither of the major newspapers, the Iowa City Press Citizen nor the Cedar Rapids Gazette, has provided much coverage of the election. There was an initial report after the filing deadline, but since then, nary a printed word. Because of that, readership of this blog, where I am covered major aspects of the campaigns, catapulted to new highs.  The blog set records for number of page views of single post, daily, weekly and monthly statistics. Because of the school board articles my annual readership is the highest it’s ever been with 10 weeks left in the year. The number of views rivals my best days as a freelancer at the Iowa City Press Citizen.

I shouldn’t have to fill the gap in news coverage but that’s where this lands. I feel a responsibility to get the story right while knowing my point of view is influenced by living in the community since 1993. Because of relationships with friends and neighbors I have a deeper understanding of segments of our community. I work toward unbiased reporting while my academic studies indicated that’s not really possible. Every writer, including me, has some axe to grind.

Writing about the school board election includes fairness and presentation of accurate information. Without that, what’s the point? I’m working without an editor so I had a misstep or two, which were fixed as quickly as feasible. No one is perfect. I feel a responsibility to our community to create a reasonable narrative from diverse and uneven information from and about the candidates. It is not obvious what that narrative should be.

It has been my pleasure to interact with the six candidates during the last week or so. It takes courage to put one’s name in the arena of competitive elections. As I’ve written previously, there are no clinkers this cycle, only the challenge of securing facts upon which to make our decisions. Hopefully these posts contribute to that endeavor.

Thanks for reading. To view the series of posts, click on this link to the tag 2019 SSB Election.