D.C. election season has officially begun, at least according to City Paper’s political thermometer. Candidates demanding stories about themselves (positive ones) and their opponents (negative ones); candidates calling our offices on repeat and shrieking their complaints over various articles; campaign managers flooding our inboxes—the political version of the first snowflake of the year in blizzard country.
Not to wipe City Paper’s hands of the business. Election dirt is a staple of journalism everywhere. Reporters sit on a different perch, but not always a different tree.
As a backdrop to this election season wind-up, though, my staff and I were putting together our annual “People Issue,” which will come out next week. Every fall, the staff creates a list of 20 or so people we want to talk to. City Paper photographer of 31 years Darrow Montgomery sets up a makeshift studio in our office and welcomes this group of D.C.’s finest as they come in for their portraits over the course of two full days. The reporting staff transcribes and trims their interviews over several weeks.
The best “People Issue” subjects have clear and uncomplicated visions of their purposes in life, their work, and the meaning of their work. Think of a person who is devoted to their small business, a person who is obsessed with getting and sharing good data on issues that impact the lives of many, or an aging artist who put money and fame on the backburner a long time ago.
Political candidates in election season are often just the opposite. Whatever heartfelt goals they have for their city are buried under the weight of fundraising, wars with opponents, strategy, and power lust. They tend to replace clear-eyed visions with sound bites. Some come out on the other end of it true public servants, whether they win or not. Others don’t. It’s hard to predict which ones will take which path.
Primary elections for mayor and select D.C. Council seats are in June 2018, and the general election is next November. Let the muckraking begin. We hope you enjoy this year’s People Issue, too.