In an interview earlier this week with Howard Stern, CNN’s Anderson Cooper said, “I don’t think I’m going to vote. I don’t think reporters should vote….It’s a thing.”
When pressed on the insanity of this position — and how people in other countries don’t even have this right — Cooper unfurled the rationale: “I don’t want to be influenced one way or the other….My role is to ask questions.” Noting that he can’t remember the last time he voted, Cooper said, “I don’t like feeling like I’ve taken a stand.”
On one point, Cooper is right: This is a thing, and it goes a ways back. Former Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. avoided voting for many of the same reasons cited by Cooper. Heck, Downie even refused to vote after stepping down as executive editor amid the high-profile presidential election of 2008. “I’m not voting in November because I’ve kept my mind open about the candidates and issues during two years or so of having ultimate responsibility for our campaign coverage, so I just don’t feel ready to vote in this election. I’ll have a clean slate after that,” Downie told the Erik Wemple Protoblog back then.
This act of civic self-abnegation shows how serious are people like Cooper and Downie about their profession. Credit them for that. Yet the argument, as Stern’s protestations made clear in his Cooper interview, falls apart even before scrutiny. Nearly 16 years ago, Michael Kinsley (a Post contributor) demolished it: “Journalists are still citizens, with the rights and duties of citizenship. Journalists are also people, for the most part, and people naturally develop opinions about the world around them. This is not a capacity you can turn on and off like a switch. The critical faculties that make for a good journalist probably make purging yourself of all relevant opinion even less plausible.”
When asked if he could de-opinionize himself, Cooper said, “I think it’s something you need to actively fight against and push against.” Stick to attainable goals, Cooper.