On elections, or, a ranty-rant

A few observations to help those who are watching elections ’round here, and other general scuttlebutt. This will verge on wonkishness, but it’s important to use the right terms to accurately describe what’s happening.

  • Opponents challenge incumbents. Not the other way around.
  • Incumbents seek reelection.
  • In an open race the candidates can challenge each other, but they’re really both running for one seat.
  • Generally speaking, the candidate polling behind the frontrunner demands debates. The person ahead really doesn’t benefit from debates and generally will want to protect his or her lead. Think of it in terms of football. If the play called on the field is a touchdown, and you’re pretty sure your receiver got both feet down before the sideline (or one, if we’re talking Vols ball) then you don’t want to see your opponent’s coach toss in a red flag for a review. A debate is sort of like a review in that situation.

And before you’re totally lulled to sleep, here’s a tiny rant on getting it first vs. getting it right. I sent a kind of cryptic tweet yesterday …


Let me further clarify. There seems to be a mad rush by media folks to get things posted first. And our hungry audience wants things fast, in as few words as possible.

That’s part of the job. No big deal. The first and highest mission, however, is accuracy. If we cannot hold ourselves accountable – and notify the public when we’re wrong – how can that public expect that we will hold those we cover accountable, and deliver that information with fairness and no bias?

Now, I understand that there are people out there with obvious agendas, and columnists opine, and bloggers pontificate (and the rest of us scruffy reporter types are just bashing out copy as fast as we can), so it’s not always clear on who is doing what. But be careful, dear reader, and avoid echo chambers.

You all deserve better.


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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