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This morning, I went to my local polling place and I voted for John Kasich in the New York Republican primary, and not just because he ate pizza the right way.
I voted for Kasich because I think he would be a better president than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz – which is, admittedly, a low bar.
Your ballot is secret, and you don’t have to tell anyone whom you voted for if you don’t want to. But I feel like it’s only fair to tell my readers how I voted. If you’re reading me and trusting my analysis, why shouldn’t you get to know where I’m coming from?
I’m happy to reveal my vote because I think “journalistic objectivity” is pretentious.
Journalists are humans, and they have opinions – especially about topics on which they are deeply informed, as political journalists hopefully are about politics. You should be very skeptical of someone who manages to learn a lot about the government and yet claims not to have strong views about what it should do. This person either is concealing something or is stupid.
Objectivity is not the same as fairness, and journalistic fairness is not pretentious. Journalists should strive to represent the views and arguments of political actors accurately, even those they disagree with. A good political journalist should be able to pass an ideological Turing test.
The question is, if objectivity doesn’t exist, what is the best way to achieve fairness?
On Monday’s Howard Stern Show, CNN’s Anderson Cooper said he thinks reporters shouldn’t vote at all, because the act of voting makes it harder for the reporter to maintain mental focus on not taking a stand on political issues.
I like Cooper and think he’s an excellent reporter, but I don’t think that’s a best practice. Not voting won’t stop you from forming preferences about policy, or from realizing that one candidate would be better than another. Declining to vote could put you in denial about your biases. And as a result, you might not properly adjust for them in your reporting.
That’s not to say reporters should necessarily tell people whom they vote for. A lot of readers would rather not know the opinions of the people from whom they get news, and a lot of reporters do a scrupulous job of adjusting for their biases without explicitly disclosing them.
But personally, I see no reason not to tell readers my vote, as another piece of data they can use when deciding whether to take me seriously or not.