Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Blame the Boston Globe for Voter Apathy

Idealistically, the media serves as the town crier. The person who stands in the middle of the town square and tells the community what it needs to hear. Certainly the media also tells an audience what they want to hear; but clearly human beings do not often want to hear what they need to hear.

It is not surprising to me that turn out for the recent Boston City election was low. If you had lived in Boston in the weeks leading up to the election, you never would have known there was one. The Boston Globe did not cover the election. Globe columnist Adrian Walker wrote a column on election day that noted how dead the election season was.

He concludes:
People just don't pay enough attention to the City Council to feel invested in who serves on it.

That's too bad, because on a range of issues, from neighborhood violence to property taxes, the council holds the most significant platform, other than the mayor's. The council has a limited ability to act, but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter. Nine nervous candidates are waiting to see if voters today reach the same conclusion.

To be frank, these two paragraphs infuriate me. That a Globe columnist says it's disappointing the public does not pay enough attention to the City Council should be reflection of the Globe's coverage. Looking at Mr. Walker's own columns is telling. I do not see one column about the City Council election in his recent archive, which goes back to early October-- a month to the election. I did see one column about the Boston Red Sox, which is interesting given that Mr. Walker is not a sports columnist. I understand certainly the Red Sox have a cultural impact far beyond just the Sports page, but his Red Sox column was published one week to the election. One week later, Mr. Walker is criticising his readers for not caring to vote.

How is anyone to pay attention to the City Council race when the Boston Globe doesn't bother to cover it?

I was in London when my neighborhood organized a candidates' forum, sponsored by several neighborhood groups. Almost all of the Boston City Council candidates were there (including the top five vote-getters in the election who battled for the four at-large seats), and between 70 and 100 residents attended. The Globe did not cover it. It's a good thing that I had already done a lot of research on the race before the forum took place. I was not here for it, and there's no way I would have read about it in my local city newspaper. (Props to the Beacon Hill Times and Back Bay Courant for covering it, though).

Adam Gaffin at the Universal Hub hosted a blog string on this topic, and the discussion is pretty good. Apparently, Globe City Editor Brian McGrory finds the City Council boring. Well, Mr. McGrory, why should we be surprised, then, that the voters do not go to the polls? Adam Gaffin also dissects the Globe's online coverage during election night in a previous post. Long story short, if you wanted to know who won the City Council elections in Boston on election night, one would not have found them on Boston.com.

To be sure, the City Council election is not as important as many other elections. People generally don't want to care about it. But they need to know about the races, the key issues, and the positions of each of the candidates. And the responsibility of giving people what they need to know rests on the media.

Where were the profiles of the candidates? The in-depth profiles of each and what issues they stand on? The coverage of the debates?

The election is past us now, and despite the fact not many went to the polls, the results are very important. Matt O'Mally, a former city council candidate, breaks down some of the numbers on his blog. What's great about numbers in a low-turnout election is that you know the voters who actually voted are the types who will vote in *every* election. If you want to earn "the base," you have to understand them.

1 comment:

the zak said...

Boston election results

11 attachments -- Download all attachments
33K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 9 Results.pdf
32K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor at Large Results.pdf
116K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor at Large Results - Precinct Totals.pdf
34K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 1 Results.pdf
42K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 2 Results.pdf
40K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 3 Results.pdf
37K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 4 Results.pdf
34K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 5 Results.pdf
37K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 6 Results.pdf
46K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 7 Results.pdf
39K 2007 - 11-06-07 - City Councillor District 8 Results.pdf
Requests for the data
sabino.piemonte at cityofboston.gov