There’s a message on my home answering machine from the local McCain campaign office essentially begging me to come down and run a telephone for them sometime in the next eighteen days. More than likely, I will not return that phone call or help the campaign.
Because I believe my position as a writer creates a conflict of interest for me that I cannot overcome. It is not just writing her on this weblog that creates a problem, but also the fact that I work as a reporter and an editor for my college newspaper where my beat is, among other things, politics.
Certainly, I make no secret of the fact that I support McCain, but that support has always been that of a third party observer. I support McCain because that is the conclusion I came to, not because the campaign tells me I have to. From my point of view, that position as a third party allows me to observe the facts critically.
I long ago rejected the idea of journalistic objectivity from the perspective that journalists should somehow tell the story with some mythical lack of bias and even-handedness. I believe it is that myth of objectivity that has caused most of the problems modern journalism currently faces.
However, in this situation, I have discovered a part of that objectivity I cannot reject: independence. Without independence, then there is no way for anyone to perceive the writer as being anything other than a proxy for the source of the information. By maintaining independence, I maintain authenticity, which I believe is far more important that traditional journalistic objectivity.
I knew something like this would eventually happen because of my writing, but I never suspected it would happen under these circumstances. I will continue to support and advocate for McCain because I believe he is right and that my advocacy is the right thing to do, but I must do so independent of the campaign in order for what I write to have the greatest impact.