Covering politics is arguably one of the most important functions the journalism industry has. From covering candidates on the campaign trail to attending press conferences at the White House and everything in between, journalists are central to the public's understanding of government on every level. Just think… if we weren't there to sit in on that school board meeting or moderate that debate, you'd have to do it yourself to stay informed.
Journalism has even been called the "fourth estate," another entity in the system of checks and balances meant to independently monitor the government and keep our nation's power in check. As such, the media serves as a "watchdog" for the public, a role most clearly illustrated in political reporting.
That's not to say there haven't been flaws along the way. The media is often drawn to drama, turning campaigning into "battling," calling the candidates "challengers" or "contenders" and even neglecting to report on the issues at stake in an election to make room for the stories that attract the most attention (read: Anthony Weiner, et al.).
Nevertheless, in keeping with our primary function, journalists continue to write about politics for their constituents-be it parents, college students, senior citizens, Latinos, gay men, immigrants, or the upper class. Everybody has a stake in our government.
Last year, The Ramapo News used social media to cover the presidential contest live and followed this online presence with a special issue entirely devoted to the election. You may have noticed we've resumed our coverage this semester, following New Jersey voters as they head to the polls not once but twice, in a special election for U.S. Senate and the gubernatorial race in November.
We have laid out the issues many young adults feel concern them, we have examined voting initiatives on campus to increase student participation in politics, and we've even sent two seasoned reporters to the gubernatorial debates to give our readers an inside look at the matchup between Governor Chris Christie and Democrat Barbara Buono. In our next issue, we'll have coverage of the last debate between Christie and Buono and the latest details on the outcome of the senate election on Oct. 16.
By the way, if you think we've missed any election or political coverage that you'd like us to explore, let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or via email. We'll see what we can do.
I will conclude with a short anecdote that really cemented the importance of political reporting in my personal journalism career. (Although I vote, I'm not one to be extremely politically active or overly verbal about my partisan views, so I assure you, this was a momentous occasion in my life.)
It all started when a source from a state political organization wanted to back out of an interview I had previously done with her about women in politics and the effect gender has in an election. The source was starting to get "cold feet" about her comments, since her job as an employee of Bergen County required her to remain politically neutral. She asked not to be named in my story and then asked if I could scrap the interview entirely.
Aside from not wanting to re-do my entire piece without her input, I tried to reason with her about the importance of her thoughts and insight. I explained that all I was attempting to do in my story was examine an issue. I wasn't pushing a political ideology or viewpoint, and neither were her quotes.
Following much back and forth and a consultation with my professor, I didn't think I was getting through to her. My last ditch effort was to help her understand that as a journalist, it is my job to portray the facts that the public needs to know to be informed and engaged in government. Even if one student read my article and took away from it a clearer picture of the political process, I had executed that job. With that in mind, would she kindly grant me permission to use our on-the-record interview in my story?
Needless to say, after that, she obliged.
That's all the news for now-Nicole