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Article of the Day – Writing a Post-Election Recap

September 16, 2011
ED Koch and Bob Turner

ED Koch and Bob Turner

Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 9th, replacing the politician resigning his office for lewd-texting a picture of his no-longer-private parts, was the major Democratic upset discussed across the nation Wednesday morning. A non-Jewish Republican (Bob Turner) garnered the observant Jewish vote against a Democrat (David Weprin) with more experienced and the added benefit of being Jewish.

How should we go about reporting on this election? There’s the metonymic approach, where the reporter records the reactions of a few people lounging around the local bar and describes them as representatives of the voting populace. Or the reporter can call in the experts, the James Carville types, and have weave together their analyses to paint the larger picture.Alternatively, the reporter can pick a particular angle of the election to elaborate and conduct some “investigative journalism.” Of course, there’s always the old standby where the editors just pull the statistics off the wire service along with the official party responses, add a little of their own background and commentary, and voila!, they bill the article as breaking news.

In the realm of election reporting, not all approaches are equal and the better authors employ more than a little creativity. Ben Jacobs’ article on Tablet Magazine — “Republican-Jewish Coalition” — is an outstanding of merging a variety of styles so that readers (especially those, like me, who read far too many elections articles) stay tuned in for the full length of the piece.

Each section (there are three of them) of Jacobs’ article tackles a different aspect of the election. His first section uses some of the wire information — listing the candidates, the basic background, and the poll numbers — but quickly gets to the down and dirty question of why voters chose the Turner over Weprin. This is what we should call the soul-searching approach: the author presents the variety of alternatives for choosing the candidate (many of which, no doubt, other reporters have picked up on) and boils down to the one he believes is most true of voters and, in this case, perhaps the most troubling for readers.

You see, the Jacobs is trying to convey the idea that the observant Jews voted for Turner because they saw Weprin as abandoning his religious values and not supporting Israel strongly enough, while they Turner as more principled, though his principles were likely at odds with their own, and more supportive of Israel, though his knowledge of US-Israeli relations was questionable. Given that the target audience at Tablet Magazine is primarily Jewish, this is a provocative way to open his article. The fact that he does this in only 3 paragraphs shows his writing prowess.

His second section, another mere 3 paragraph, changes tactics and drives the point home. Here he takes us to the social scene and shares the words of some Jewish voters, shedding light on some of the rumors, political machinations, and loyalties influencing voters on both sides of the aisle.

The final section (considerably longer than the previous sections) takes yet another approach and asks the burning question of what the election means for the national political trends. To answer this question, he turns to the experts. His key source is former New York City Mayor Democrat Ed Koch, who turned the tables on the election by endorsing Turner. Jacobs quotes Koch as reading this election as a wake-up call to President Obama to re-think his stance towards Israel. In a bit of irony, Jacobs paints Turner as a man who, as opposed to Mayor Koch, has not thought too much about policy towards Israel yet, but merely appeared more pro-Israel than his veteran Democrat opponent.

Considering the detail of the comments on the article at Tablet Magazine, I’d say Tablet readers found this article both engaging and controversial. If Mr. Jacobs was hoping to spark some discussion, he has certainly achieved that goal.

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