Judy Spooner Viewpoint: Election season brings back good and bad recollectionsIt’s the height of the election season and we’ll be bombarded with television ads and direct mail, even for local races. It’s at this time of year that I recall past experiences, good and bad, with politicians.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
It’s the height of the election season and we’ll be bombarded with television ads and direct mail, even for local races. It’s at this time of year that I recall past experiences, good and bad, with politicians.
I talked to my first candidate for office when I had been a Bulletin reporter for about two months in late 1969. It just happened to be Hubert Humphrey, who had a long successful career including being vice president.
Humphrey was speaking at a Democratic fundraiser at the Old Cottage Grove community center, which has since been razed.
He saw my reporter’s notebook but detected me as a rookie. The most gracious candidate I’ve ever interviewed, he treated me with great respect, just as if I worked for the New York Times.
When I looked a bit tongue-tied because I didn’t expect that he would give me an interview, he asked his own question and made it appear as if it were mine. “I suppose you’re going to ask me about my plan to cut taxes for the middle class,” he said.
“Of course,” I said. He led me through several questions and I had a story to report.
It’s my best political memory. For the first time, I felt like a real reporter.
Not all of my relationships with elected officials went well, however.
One of my assignments, after 18 months on the job, was covering the District 833 School Board. For context, remember that it was 1971, a time when men over 40 thought young women weren’t as smart as men.
There was a discussion about the district’s budget, but I wasn’t given a copy of the superintendent’s recommendation.
I approached the chairman after the meeting and asked for a copy of the budget.
“Why does a pretty girl like you want all those silly numbers?” he said.
I don’t remember what I said, but probably didn’t say anything. The next day, I made an appointment with the finance director who had a better opinion of women. He took me through it step by step and I wrote my story.
The chairman continued to call me “Blondie,” and “Sweetie,” but he no longer treated me like an idiot.
During a heated discussion of the teachers’ contract about a year later, the teachers’ representative, before they won collective bargaining rights, and board member tempers flared. I wrote a story and papers sold out throughout the area.
I was in the office, then located where the Subway is now located in Newport, when the school board chairman came through the door.
“You had a lot of nerve to write that story,” he said.
John Herman, the editor and publisher, came out of his office when he heard the raised voice. He told me I did a good job after I turned in the story, but I wondered if that would stick when confronted by the board chairman.
“You printed what I said, not what I meant,” he said.
“Yes,” I said.
They went into John’s office and closed the door.
John didn’t back down but they maintained a good relationship that was never extended to me. I didn’t back down, either.