They’ll Be Dancin’ in the Dark--at Home  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   October/November 2004

They’ll Be Dancin’ in the Dark--at Home   

By Caroline Zaayer
Zaayer is a former AJR editorial assistant.     


When a favorite music group is performing at a politically charged fundraiser, what is a journalist to do? The answer at USA Today: Don't go.

Though they might love The Boss or R.E.M or Dave Matthews, the paper's political reporters and its editor decided, when the question came up in August, that in the name of objectivity, it's probably better not to attend. The left-leaning MoveOn PAC enlisted the help of some big-name musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, for a fundraising concert series that kicked off in September and includes shows across the country.

"USA Today did not put a ban on going to the concert, we just said it's not a good idea," USA Today Editor Ken Paulson says. "If someone is spotted in the 23rd row singing along, they're not going to be punished."

The Vote for Change concert tour is taking place in swing states around the country. All proceeds from the concerts will benefit America Coming Together, a group pushing to unseat Republicans this November. One date on the tour includes a lineup with Springsteen, John Fogerty and R.E.M. in Philadelphia, a reasonable drive from USA Today's headquarters in McLean, Virginia.

It's always best for journalists to avoid political parties and fundraisers, Paulson says, and editors thought the concerts would be tantamount to such events.

The same sentiment was expressed at other papers, including the Washington Post and the Miami Herald.

USA Today Managing Editor Carol Stevens says it was pointed out to reporters that "this is just as much a political event as it is entertainment, since that might not be immediately apparent to somebody who was planning to go to the concert."

The political nature of the tour aside, Paulson admits, "I have everything Bruce Springsteen and John Fogerty ever did," and says he couldn't think of anything more fun than a night of seeing the two perform.

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