A letter from a citizen journalist: debriefing election coverage

Dear “Friends”

I would like to thank each and everyone of you for being part of this
initiave in local “citizen journalism”. I have had many years of
political experience and, quite frankly, last night’s “little
experiment” in online social media journalism, well, was the most fun ever.

However, in that regard I have a few awards to pass out–and kudos and
raspberries–as an entirely disinterested and dispassionate participant
in this event. Frankly, I’m embarassed to say I knew nothing about this
municipal election. I think Mr. Washburn recruited me for this effort
simply because he knew I was a fast typer

My job was to track down the candidates and interview them as the
results came in and post their comments to “Cover-It-Live”–a nice piece
of “citizen journalism” software for live coverage of events such as these.

Everyone I met participated. Well, almost everyone–there was one
notable exception.

But first the awards.

1. GOLD: MOST CLASSY PERSON UNDER PRESSURE: Lorraine Brace, Returning
Officer, and the Staff of the Town of Cobourg

Lorraine: you were absolutely totally beautiful. I have known many
returning officers who have had to work difficult elections (some even
particularly nasty elections). Lorraine, you were the epitome of grace
under pressure. And so was your team. When I arrived at the town hall
shortly after 8 p.m. I expected the polls to be closed. They weren’t.
I had no idea what was going on. I (as I was directed) dutifully went
about interviewing candidates in the front foyer of Victoria Hall. Then
the reports started coming in to me: there was problems voting, both by
telephone and by internet. People were unable to vote. Both phone
lines and internet usage had spiked. Voters were not happy.

But you, Lorraine (and your team) had already acted decisively and with
grace. As those online threw out questions to me of “what was going on”
I could see you working the front foyer. Explaining to people in the
line up to vote. I followed you, hastily, into the main floor office of
the Town Hall and began to ask you questions.

You were SOOO busy. Staff were working the phones telling people they
could still vote–online, at Victoria Hall, at the Library. I could
hear your staff. The room was singing. I doubt any staff had dinner
that day. There were people literally coming in and out of the
office–just to use the computer to vote. You were the model of
composure, Lorraine.

Yes, you replied to me, I can answer your questions. And you did.

Definitively: every person who phoned and emailed to say that they could
not vote was going to be tracked down and told that they could vote.
Period.

I could barely hear your answers to my questions as I tried to type
them–your staff were working the phones hard: “Yes, sir, you can vote
now–We have extended the voting times until 9 p.m. Try it now.” It was
like a damn greek chorus!

Later that night, a colleague of mine in this exercise (S.Berry) asked
you questions yet again about this. He wanted details for the audience
that was our small internet project. You, Lorraine, not only dutifully
answered but you did so with enthusiasm. You described the efforts to
ensure Seniors at long term care homes could vote and pointed out
relevant Town IT support as they walked by–who, of course, were still
working at the end of the night after everyone else had gone home.

You were magnificent, Lorraine. I doubt you will hear that in the next
few weeks. But you were. You are, without a doubt, my favourite person
of Campaign 2010.

2. SILVER: BEST “Losers”

There are no “losers” in public service. There are those who heed the
call and are provided the opportunity to serve. And those who just
don’t get enough votes. Its really quite simple. However, I am a
romantic at heart and I believe that all those who pursue public service
are noble. Period. There are very very very few monsters–although
they do exist–I think we all know that. Nevertheless, I know that the
victors from last night will be celebrated in the weeks to come. The
others will, inevitably, have other work to do. Here are my favourites:

(a) Bill MacDonald: although you didn’t have to talk with me you did
nevertheless. I think you knew the writing was on the wall–I could hear
it in your answers to my simple questions. This year was an agenda of
change and someone had to be sacrificed. There is a rumour floating
that you were cajoled to run again. I don’t believe that. I believe
that you run until you are defeated–that is the nature of being a
democratic candidate. This idea of leaving because you may be defeated
is for “wussess” and shallow men. You are not a shallow man. I don’t
respect such “quitters”–they make a farce of democracy. If I was as
successful at winning elections as you were I would run until I was
defeated. I would ask myself: “have I not served?” not “have I not
served enough?”.

The results were announced in the Concert Hall of Victoria Hall. You
said “Well, I guess that’s it then.” The whole room heard it. You
stood, head held high, and walked out.

I would have done the very same as you. I have no sympathies for you:
you will be called again. And should be.

(b) Brad Mills: I am truly sorry. I have failed you–as, I believe, all
those who participated in this exercise last night failed you. We are
the supposed to be the people who know this “techonology stuff” and care
about it and see its value in the classroom. Our children need a
critical AND informed mind around new technologies and media. We had a
real opportunity for the former with you. Instead we focused on school
closings. Excuse me people why do we continue to elect GG as our
trustee!!!!???

You were nervous. I was too. You brought your children to witness this
exercise in local democracy–even if it meant you might lose. I had
nothing to lose–and yet I could not bring my daughter. I will not make
that mistake four years from now. I promise you that.

No one was more recommended to me than you. No one.

Nevertheless (on a practical note), I do note that Ms.Jeninga was
unequivocal about school closings–read the notes–they should be
archived (rob?).

(c) Dave Glover: I confess you were my favourite. Your COGECO Cable 10
coverage would have been spectacular if you had not been running–you
would have known exactly what to do with the extra “hour” time 😉 of
extended voting…and I suspect it would have forced the “radio” to be a
little better as well.

Not to compare apples to oranges but every candidate I spoke to
predicted Larry Sherwin’s win. All of them. Why? Well, because he is
the natural successor to the sports representative: Bob Spooner. Larry
coaches sports, they explain (I’m listening to these comments because I
really don’t understand this) with Bob gone the “teams” will vote for
Larry. So continuing on the apples and oranges theme I ask: “Is there
an Arts & Culture representative”. I get nonplussed looks–from all.

I’m having a rough time understanding this municipal politics stuff.

When the results came in you shook your shoulders and did what you
always do: you talked to everyone. I think you may have been the last
“losing” candidate to leave Victoria Hall. I kept looking up as I was
furiously typing people’s answers and there you would be across the
room…still smiling, laughing and telling stories.

Dave, this is a small consolation for you: but your work is not yet done
at Cable 10, Northumberland Players, etc. But I’m thinking, if the
sports “teams” can have a rep I think “arts” should have one as well. 😉

3. Bronze Medals: “Most Fun”

(a) SHARED: Forrest Rowden and Donna Todd (# 2 and # 4 votes cast for
councillor): Thanks for working the “lobby”. Most of the “other
politicos” were waiting upstairs. No, not you two! You were going to
wait and watch until the last vote was cast!

I love that.

Thanks, Forrest for taking the time to speak to me. Your predictions
for the night were dead on. I’m happy to say you were my councillor in
Hamilton Township–and now again in Cobourg. Good to see you.

Donna–I don’t know you–at all! But you made me LOL. The only time all
night. That’s a feat. 😉

(b) SHARED: Rob and Ben

Sorry, you have to share this. I know you don’t like each other.
Everyone knows that. And then there will be the eventual incriminations
about whose ideas this was, and who made it happen, and all such kind of
stuff. Of course I could just be a maligning gossip. Libelous, maybe!
Point is:
(i) we used this technology before with the hospital issue==I think we
were too little too late (my apologies). Suggestions for future action?
(ii) How can this process further democratic action online? Or just
journalism 😉
We can not let go of this.

I can’t read dialogue, think, ask questions and type at the same time.
Sorry, I have my limitations. Thankfully, the other Scott showed up. I
had a great time. Rob, thanks for putting this idea forward and setting
it up. Ben, thanks for the promotion and participation.

I’m proud to call you both “friends” 5b (see below).

4. Kudos

Kudos to the following: Marcy & ChrisL & Deb O & Dflewell & nursedude
for keeping the conversation and dialogue going. I had one assignment:
talk to the candidates. After it all, I have read your contributions
three times tonight. I trust your effort will be archived. I liked
your questions and comments–particularly about the voting
difficulties–and, well, the irony, like “there’s an issue about the
beach!”. My apologies for not being so responsive but I was a little
single-minded in focus 😉

5. “Raspberries”

“Raspberry of the Night” Award: SHARED–Gil Brocanier and Martin Partridge

(a) Martin: You correctly predicted the night’s results for yourself at
5 minutes to 9:00 p.m.–before voting had stopped. Well, almost correct
prediction. You said you would place 7 out of 8. You placed 8th. I
dropped by your house looking for you before I went to the Town Hall.
You weren’t there.. But you did come online. It was good to see your
comments. But your non-presence at Victoria Hall almost killed the
defining narrative of this campaign. I was more than a little
disapointed–on the other hand I think I know what you are dealing with.

(b) Gil: My name is Scott Lamberton. My name is in the phone book. It
is also on your roll of taxpayers. I don’t expect you to speak to me as
a “friend”. Just as a voter and taxpayer. I’m available anytime. And,
oh, by the way, I think magnaminity in victory is a great thing. Just
because I mention names that you don’t like doesn’t mean you can’t talk
to me. I have no idea what nasty things they have said about you. In
fact, if you talked to me I would yell at their irresponsiblity as your
apologists have put it. At the moment, however, I am going to look at
what any of the people who you do not consider as your “friends” in a
new light. I did not know that the Mayor of Cobourg only represented his
“friends.”

Sincerely,

Scott Lamberton