RTDNA Elections: You Can’t Fight City Hall
I wrote last week about my candidacy for the Radio-Television Digital News Association’s Board of Directors — the election for which was held over the weekend.
I don’t know how many votes I got — or how many my opponent got, for that matter. And here we get to crux of the issue.
What I do know is that if this were an algebraic equation, my vote total would be represented by (x) and my opponent’s would be almost (3x). I’m told he won, but how or by how many votes is unclear.
I received an e-mail Sunday from the RTDNA’s Executive Director, who let me know before the results were announced that I hadn’t won. I responded to him by asking for some statistics. He sent back a note saying it was a “longstanding board policy” not to release vote totals. I did get him to tell me the vote percentage: 71%-29% in favor of the other guy.
Ouch. Walter Mondale and Barry Goldwater, eat your hearts out.
First, thanks to the anonymous 29% who cast a ballot in my name. Now, onto the implications.
Before the election, I had asked for a list of all the RTDNA members in Region 7 (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan). I didn’t think much about it before the polls opened, but the list is DOMINATED by TV folks. There appear to be about twice as many TV talkers as radio reporters on the list of the approximately 130 people with votes in Region 7. I should say here this is emblematic of the broadcast news landscape the country over. There are MANY more local TV news operations than there are radio newsrooms. Look at Indianapolis: There are about five TV newsrooms and there are two radio news shops. That’s five of seven, or about 71% — the same percentage my opponent garnered in this year’s election. Hmmm…
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in covering elections for many years, it’s that people seldom vote for a candidate based on how good their overall platform is. Instead, they tend to cast ballots for someone whom they believe shares a common trait with them. In short: it’s reasonable to believe the radio people will vote for the radio people and the TV folks may not break ranks with their peers.
I also ran on a platform of doing something difficult: eschewing the junk that fills a lot of newscasts the nation over and, instead, having longer, difficult, more in-depth conversations with newsmakers about topics that actually affect viewers or listeners. That takes more time and effort to craft. It doesn’t pay attention to profit margins or ratings.
My opponent didn’t even write a candidate statement and he clobbered me.
I feel worse for a couple other folks connected to public radio who tried to run good campaigns were also pushed aside by the TV-centric RTDNA membership: Eve Troeh (a former Marketplace national reporter and now the news director at WWO in New Orleans) and Thor Wasbotten at Kent State University and WKSU.
So I’ve learned a lot from this election cycle. I don’t know if I’ll try again in the future, but there’s much to digest. Then again, a good leader who’d just won a somewhat improbable election once said “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”