Monday, January 26, 2009

Did Former WaPo Editor Finally Cast a Vote?

In December of last year, Michael Kinsley sat down with San Francisco Chronicle editor-at-large Phil Bronstein at The Commonwealth Club of California and had this exchange about the former editor of the Washington Post, Len Downie, Jr. who famously abstains from voting:

Bronstein: You also mentioned the Washington Post. I mean, it should be said that while there is great work going on down there, I never could understand Len Downie's refusal to vote as a part of his journalistic creed.

Kinsley: This was the previous editor. He didn't vote because he felt that was a conflict of interest and he went out of his way not to decide who he might vote for, if he was into that sort of thing, because that was a conflict of interest.

Bronstein: I've never known an editor who had that much control over their own behavior.

Downie will discuss his sterling career at The Post this Thursday at The Commonwealth Club. During his tenure, Downie's newsroom garnered 25 Pulitzer Prizes during a 17-year career, which included six this past year. (Investigative reporter Steve Fainaru, who recently spoke at The Commonwealth Club, received one those awards. Click here to hear him discuss the conspicuous role of private security firms in Iraq.)

When Downie revealed his belief in extracting his mind and body from the act of voting, he received rounds of hushed snickering. How could it be humanly possible for a person to be totally objective? "Is this neurologically possible?" asked one blogger at the Columbia Journalism Review. Bronstein mentions Downie again at his blog along with a recent CNN video of the two former newsroom chiefs. But, Downie's views are not entirely in the minority and tend to be favored by idealistic journalists and acolytes of Downie.

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann says he doesn't vote, to the consternation of the ladies on "The View." and two former reporters under Downie who left the paper to create agree.

With a new book out, The Rules of the Game, and unhinged from his daily duties at the paper since September; the question needs to be asked: Did Downie vote in the November election?

According to Media Bistro, he registered to vote in the District of Columbia the very same day he retired.

--by Steven Tavares


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