Never talk religion or politics...
That was good advice when you got it from your parents or grandparents. It was one of the first things my grandma told me when I began bartending at the family restaurant years ago. The only problem is, those are real conversation starters.
As another presidential election nears, it's funny how politics dominates our newscasts, and yet I think that advice still applies... sort of. No matter what you say or how you say it, a viewer somewhere is upset with it. It's not any fault of us in the news business, but it's simply the landscape of politics in America today.
Politics have always been contentious, but have you ever known a more derisive time in your life? From national to local, there's so much vitriol (calendar word of the day) I find myself watching my every word so as not to upset anyone and appear as impartial as possible. While I am neutral in my reporting, would it really be wrong to say "A victory for special interests" on election night if Proposal 6 passed? Wouldn't it be? And isn't it also our duty to root out facts people should know about? Don't you want to know the owner of the Ambassador Bridge spent more than $30 million dollars in his latest attempt to stop the Governor from building another bridge to Canada? Wouldn't you like to know Consumers Energy and DTE are virtually the only money fighting to stop Prop 3? While you ponder that, isn't interesting that millions from sources in California are paying to PASS Prop 3? I worry that if we're too aggressive we'll get labeled as in favor of one side or the other. But our EP gave me some good advice when I was worried about how we presented our National Convention coverage. Just because it might ruffle some feathers, we still have to do our job. Meaning, you have to report on things like the 47%, Solyndra, presidential approval ratings, bungled overseas trips, and everything else.
I have to be even more careful on social media. Every time I post anything political on Facebook, the comments always end up getting very heated. Live tweeting the presidential debates was like taking my life in my hands. In the end, I was accused of being biased toward each candidate just once. I think that's good. I wanted to tweet about NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg's comment but I wisely thought twice about it. He said, "Obama getting credit for killing Osama bin Laden is like Harry Truman getting credit for dropping the bomb." First of all, I don't think that's a fair comparison, but secondly, damn right Harry Truman should get credit for dropping the bomb-- that's one helluva decision to make. Radiating a million people is quite different than giving the go to kill our most hated adversary. But if I share my opinion on that, I would just get vilified as an Obama supporter and not strike up a conversation like I'd want.
Hmmm. Maybe I'll pose that question on Facebook and conduct a little social media political experiment. Against my grandma's advice, I think I give it a run.