I’ve always been a huge history buff. Whether it’s the Articles of Confederation, the Lincoln presidency or World War II, I’m fascinated. Being interested in history plays a huge role in why I’m studying to become a journalist.
Watching current events unfold before my eyes each day and being able to share this news with countless others is exactly what drives me.
I chose Political Science as my minor area of study because I’m fascinated with how our democracy has evolved over the past 200 years. Keeping government accountable and transparent is one of the primary responsibilities of journalists. We have to provide the public with the information that they need to be informed, involved citizens.
Our role as a gatekeeper and guardian of truth is one that cannot become lax in it duties. When journalists fail in their responsibilities or abuse their power, democracy becomes more vulnerable.
Shortly after my arrival at WFAA two weeks ago, I tried to catch up on the mayor’s race and its growing intricacies. The race, which after a recent primary election, had been narrowed from 11 candidates to 2.
Generally, Dallas city elections are not partisan races. The political flavor seems to be a unique blend of conservatives and liberals. Candidates tend to stick to the issues, which do not seem to mirror the platform of any one political party. Republican Tom Leppert and Democrat Ed Oakley somehow pulled this race into a choice between night and day.
In my opinion, the race in its latter stages became a debate over personal politics rather than the issues. During the time I was orienting myself with the issues of the election, the race became a mud bath. Ed Oakley’s campaign began airing television ads portraying Tom Leppert as a crooked businessman, only interested in expanding his pocket book at the expense of others. Conservatives, who are not thought to be connected to Leppert’s staff, began a telephone recording campaign centered around Ed Oakley’s open homosexuality.
The mudslinging appeared to be turning voters off to the idea of both candidates. Turnout for the first election was extremely poor. Would this play a factor in the Saturday election? Apparently not. Turnout in the runoff election was low, a mere 100,000 people, but significantly greater than the last go round.
My role began around 3 p.m., arriving at the station to begin to preliminary studying. Via a State of Texas website, election returns would start rolling in online in a few hours. We’d be able to see what candidate had won each district. We had already mapped out which candidates were expected to poll well.
I was working with reporter Chris Heinbaugh at the Ed Oakley campaign headquarters. We had a live update in the 6 p.m. newscast, then headed back to the station to wait for results. After some delicious Mexican take-out delivered to the station, we formulated game plan. We left the station around 8:30 and headed back to our spot.
Every TV station in town had set up camp at the two candidates’ headquarters. The parking lot was crowded with live trucks from WFAA, the CBS, NBC, FOX, the CW, PBS, and Univision affiliates. All of the reporters had staked out their spot in front of the stage to get all the action, while photographers shot b-roll of the candidate mingling with friends. After interviewing Oakley about his initial thoughts on the race, we edited the raw video and then transmitted it back to the station for the 10 p.m. newscast.
Results started pouring in quickly and it was apparent that Leppert was soaring ahead. Oakley eventually conceded after a final vote tally of 58 to 42%. We had live coverage of the returns again in the 10 p.m. newscast.
It was very interesting to hear the kinds of questions that Chris asked candidate Ed Oakley, especially since Oakley had just announced defeat. He asked his opinion on the the outcome, what factors he thought played into things, and other questions. We did a wrap up of both campaigns and then hit the road.
Seeing election coverage from the other end of things was certainly more interesting than I would have surmised. I’m off on Sunday and Monday, so please check back for my next post on Tuesday evening.