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Budgets vs. elections

This is a busy time at a newspaper. One clear sign that the executive types in this business don’t really get journalism is that during the newsroom’s hands-down most important time ” election season ” they figure that precisely now we need to be carefully planning our budgets for next year.

These two priorities collide in the most profound way. I’m in the newsroom, so this budget “nonsense” (it’s not, really) is a distraction from the real work of the moment, the important questions in our collective lives, on which informed voters and not-so-informed voters alike will decide. I’m sorting out my community’s future here, man, and you want to pester me with line items? Get real.

Of course, the business people with responsibility to the business have a somewhat dim view of my priorities. Who cares about elections? No one votes anymore anyway. While that’s not strictly true, what is true is that Iraqis and Afghanis are showing stronger at the polls despite the risk to their lives. And in the face of our smug assertions that they aren’t evolved enough or something like that to even want democracy.



So about half the voters in a good year make an American election. In off years like this one, what, a quarter of us might make the effort to decide some pretty important things locally. Such as, shall we explore better ways of running our county? Building a conference center in Vail with public funding? For the state, whether to pocket a lousy $500 over five years or let the state recover from the last recession enough not to send state college tuition soaring, cheapen the K-12 educational system even more, fix a road or two.

Nah, that ain’t all that important. That’s the message. From the voters. From even the newspaper execs, who really should know better. But I’m not convinced they spend much time thinking about elections.

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After all, they are far more wrapped up in the budgeting gantlet than I am. I see silly numbers that will go the way they go when the time comes, however we “plan” them. Gas prices rise. Stock markets fall. The snow snows or it doesn’t; that’s the key here. All this fussing about projected revenue and the newsroom wanting to spend too damn much isn’t going to change any of that.

Ah well, they bemuse me. I annoy them. I suppose I’m sore because I need them more than it would seem they need me, although I do think they don’t quite realize how important feeding and nurturing the wretches and grumps in the newsroom is to the business in the long run.

In reality, it can’t be helped. We budget with the calendar, and Jan. 1 is racing closer. The process does not allow the execs to leave it alone during election season, which in fact is more important to the community we serve, only I’m not sure the community gets that any more than the execs do.



There’s your problem for modern America. The dollar is more important than the ballot. Of course, that’s the way it always has been.

Send the practical folks who get that to the executive suite, and cordone off the dreamers in the newsroom. If they start to get cynical about it, make ’em editors and tell them you need their budget plans. Now.


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