We journalists are constantly looking for new ways to present the same information or cover the same story. That's especially true of elections. There's a new one all the time, so there's always a need to recast the story and freshen it up, whether it's by pushing the candidates into roles, adding pop culture references, trying to find a tenuous tie to an issue of the day or just being bizarre.
The Darlington News and Press has adopted the last approach in its coverage of the 7th Congressional District race. The paper, no doubt struggling with the same staffing cuts that have affected all us in the newspapering business, opted to send questionnaires to all the candidates with 7 questions for the 7th District (cute). The first six are fairly standard inquiries about priorities, experience, etc. The seventh, however, goes off the rails.
What toppings do you prefer on your pizza? candidates were asked. Because that matters, of course. The candidates have taken a variety of responses to the question, from the straightforward ("Pepperoni and peppers," said Preston Brittain) to somewhat lame attempts at humor ("Anything non-fattening!" said Andre Bauer) and even some backhanded jokes ("the jury is still out in terms of whether my opponents know anything about good pizza," said Parnell Diggs).
On one hand, I can understand the thought process of the reporter or editor who put together the questions. In a world of slogans and soundbites, it's nice to personalize the candidates. We want to know more about them and their character than just that they're concerned about the buzz words of the year: accountability, sustainability and transparency.
But on the other hand, who cares? Now that I know what kind of pizza Jim Mader likes ("Pepperoni, black olive, feta cheese, green pepper, mushroom (fresh sliced, not canned), onion, banana peppers and mozzarella cheese"), does that influence my thought process in the voting booth at all? I hope not.
If the paper were trying to help voters see the candidates as real people, a good goal to have, there's a better way to do it. Ask for a story from their childhood that would influence them in Congress. Ask about a leader that inspired them. Ask what superhero they most identify with (that at least shows something about their character and how they see themselves). But pizza toppings? With only seven questions, what a waste of one.