Writing about politics can be depressing

December 14, 2016

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

There was a time nearly two decades ago that I was having an especially personal exam at my doctor’s office. After he finished what he had to do, I asked him how he could do that every day.

He responded immediately: “How do you cover that Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky mess every day?”

Touché, my good doctor.

I’m asked often how I manage to write about politics on a regular basis. Gee, that’s been a full-time job since 1990, when I joined the editorial board of The Birmingham News, back when it was a daily newspaper and doing some of the best journalism in the country.

I’ve learned from the best, including the late editorial page editor Ron Casey, who I won a Pulitzer Prize with, and former EP editor Bob Blalock, who I was a finalist with for another Pulitzer Prize in 2006.

Alabama is a great state in which to be a political writer. We have a lively state government that far too often does the wrong thing when doing the right thing would be easier.

Just look at some of the recent headlines right here on Alabama Political Reporter: Josh Moon’s No one should be surprised by Alabama’s bogus graduation rates. There’s Bill Britt’s Hubris, secrecy and duplicity about strange goings-on at the Alabama Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Roy Moore was recently suspended for the remainder of his term by the Judicial Inquiry Commission.

Holding public officials and agencies accountable is one of the primary responsibilities of the media, and Alabama Political Reporter does a fine job of doing that.

That responsibility, however, is more and more coming under fire, from the governor’s office to that of our new president-elect, who clamors that he’ll make it more difficult for us to do our jobs. Fortunately, there is that pesky First Amendment, guaranteeing press freedom.

I’m asked, considering some of the corruption I’ve helped cover in Alabama, how I prevent myself from becoming a complete cynic.

Well, the cynicism is there, that’s true. But I do my best to protect myself from becoming completely smothered in cynicism with other, outside involvement in my state and community.

For more than a decade, my wife and I served as Court-Appointed Special Advocates, helping represent abused and neglected children in Jefferson County Family Court. More recently, we’ve become animal advocates and animal transporters, and we’ve involved ourselves in the rescue community.

Representing abused and neglected children does weigh on one’s mind, but seeing a case end successfully – a child reunited with her parents or an adoption to a wonderful family – that is good stuff.

Watching the eyes of an abused dog light up when just given the kind attention he deserves is worth a whole lot.

Writing about politics does sometimes become overwhelming. As many readers know, the past month after November’s presidential election has especially been tough for some of us. I care because before I’m a journalist or columnist, I’m a citizen and voter. I care deeply about the issues I write about, because I care about our state and nation.

Too, I can be convinced that my perspective may not be the best or most productive, and when that happens, I have no qualms about shifting courses. But as a progressive – liberal, if you will – I do believe that we have to change our gun culture and that a public education is important and that our environment should be protected and that people who love each other, whether gay are straight, should be allowed to form a more perfect union. I believe everybody deserves good health care, and people who can’t feed their families deserve help.

So as this sometimes-difficult year draws to a close, try not to be overly cynical. Try to help others when you can. Let’s look with optimism toward 2017, yes, even after mid-January.

I’ll write this column for as long as Bill and Susan Britt want me to.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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