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capitol impact Ebola Mania For the past few months, I have heard the same question everywhere I go. Whether the person is a casual observer of politics or someone deeply immersed in the trade, they ask, “Who’s going to win?” They’re referring, of course, to the races for governor and senator that have become the center of national media attention as we get closer to election day. These are two elections that seem to have confounded all of the experts, pundits and pollsters. On Friday of last week, a mere 11 days prior to Nov. 4, the results of three major polls of these races were released. None of them agreed with the others. CNN had a poll that said Democrats Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn were leading by small margins in the two races. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a poll that showed Gov. Nathan Deal and Republican businessman David Perdue ahead of their Democratic opponents by a couple of points. WSB-TV in Atlanta released its poll that said Perdue and Nunn were tied in the Senate race, while Deal was leading Carter by three points. These surveys were conducted by legitimate firms who know how to poll a statewide race, but none of them reached the same conclusion—and obviously, all of them can’t be right. It reminds me of the comment by the novelist William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything… Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.” Goldman was writing about Hollywood and the movie business, but his words apply equally well to Georgia politics. Why have the pollsters been all over the map as we get closer to the general election? One reason could be the changing complexion of the state’s electorate. Georgia’s mix of voters is slowly but steadily becoming less white and more racially diverse. The state’s share of white registered voters has been declining by roughly 1 percent a year, with a corresponding increase in the percentage of non-white

voters. The different polling firms can’t seem to figure out what percentage of white voters will cast ballots in the general election as opposed to the number of votes from blacks, Latinos and Asians. There have been concerted efforts this year to register more of these nonwhite citizens to vote—a move that reflects the growth of those demographic groups in a rapidly diversifying state. The results of the registration drives showed up in the latest statistics released by the secretary of state’s office. There have been just over 183,000 voters added to the state’s rolls since Mar. 1. About one-third of the new voters—61,779—are white, while the other two-thirds consist of African Americans (67,500), Hispanics (7,550), Asians (5,094) and another 41,493 voters who are classified as “other” or “unknown.” “The power of the Latino vote is growing, and we want to make sure that growing Latino power is felt on election day,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. Helen Kim Ho, the director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Atlanta, said one of her organization’s major objectives since it was formed in 2010 has been to register more voters from the Asian communities. “No [political] party is going to do that—they have a limited amount of time and they’re going to focus their efforts on the people who are already on the rolls,” Ho said. “It’s our job to register people.” The increasingly diverse nature of Georgia’s voters makes it more difficult to figure out where a race is going. That’s why, when I keep getting hit with the question of who is going to win, I give the most honest answer I can: I don’t know. The truth is, nobody knows anything. That’s why it’s so important for everyone who’s registered to turn out and vote. Tom Crawford

UGA Reacts to the West African Outbreak


he Washington Post’s Todd Frankel has reported on the Ebola outbreak in the trenches of West Africa and told University of Georgia students last week what it was like. Frankel was a replacement speaker for Wade C.L. Williams, the editor of the Liberian daily newspaper Front Page Africa, due to concerns about bringing a journalist directly from Liberia to UGA’s campus, which spawned some controversy. Critics called it hypocritical for a journalism school to bow to the public’s overestimated fears by canceling a speaker during a series of lectures based on the theme of journalistic courage. “I received a call from Georgia just days before my trip. A woman with a pleasant voice delicately told me that parents were panicking, and the general public was against my coming to the university.” Williams said. “…[T]he hysteria in the U.S. media about the virus and the possibility of it spreading is counterproductive and must stop.” There is very little danger of an Ebola epidemic in the U.S., but the extensive coverage devoted to the topic by a large segment of news media has led to unwarranted fear of being infected with the disease. Only nine cases of Ebola have been reported in the U.S. as of press time. In Libera, a nation of more than 4 million, 4,665 people have caught the disease—0.1 percent of the population. Charles Davis, the dean for UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, later released a statement explaining that they were heeding the precautionary 21-day monitoring period that the CDC recommends. (Frankel has been back in the U.S. for more than 21 days and has shown no symptoms.) The CDC has urged Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and has urged travelers from those areas to have their temperatures taken every day for 21 days while they are in the U.S. Some politicians—including Georgia Senate candidates David Perdue and Michelle Nunn—have gone even further, calling for an outright travel ban. UGA has already forbidden students, faculty and staff from traveling to West Africa on school-related business. Patricia Thomas, who organized the event and directs the health and medical journalism masters program, further addressed the controversy prior to introducing Frankel. “It became clear that the perception of risk about bringing someone—anyone, really— directly from Liberia to a college campus within the 21 days monitoring period was probably going to be a disaster in the eyes of the public,” she said. “You don’t have to be an expect to realize that driving in Athens traffic, particularly if you’re a college student who drives after being over-served, is much more dangerous than hanging out with anyone who’s recently been in Liberia. But that’s how it goes, sometimes.”

Thomas said that she’s still in contact with Williams, and that the editor’s plane ticket is still good for another 12 months, adding that she hopes to bring Williams at some point within that time. When Frankel was asked at the end of his speech what he thought about the decisions by schools canceling speakers, he said that other places had even cancelled on him—despite his being outside the 21-day monitoring period. He was less understanding of Syracuse University’s decision to uninvite one of his colleagues, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michel du Cille, who was outside the 21-day period, too. “I am disappointed in the level of journalism at Syracuse, and I am angry that they

“Even if I had Ebola right now, none of you would be in any danger.” — Todd Frankel

Marlon Correa

No One Knows Who Will Win

missed a great teaching opportunity,” du Cille told News Photographer magazine. “Instead, they have decided to jump in with mass hysteria.” Frankel added that he understood the university’s policy and said the Washington Post doesn’t let anyone back in the newsroom for 21 days, either. Still, “even if I had Ebola right now, none of you would be in any danger,” he said, noting that only people with symptoms are contagious. Frankel understood the danger when he took on the assignment. When he proposed the idea of going to Africa to cover Ebola to his wife, a photojournalist, he said, “I was counting on her to say no. And she didn’t say no; she was encouraging.” While in Africa, “You have to assume that everyone has Ebola,” he said. You should keep a six-foot distance from everyone. Compared to the U.S., it was hard to convince the people in Sierra Leone that Ebola was real. Due to the significant amount of illiteracy in Africa, Ebola prevention centers used illustrations to communicate what symptoms to look for and how to prevent exposure. One precaution, which was “met with resistance,” was not to eat “bush meat,” or meat from wild animals. Gathering in a group of 10 people or more is considered illegal, but the government wasn’t enforcing it that much, he said. Frankel’s speech was part of the Grady College of Journalism’s annual McGill Symposium, named for legendary Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill. David Schick



Profile for Flagpole Magazine

October 29th, 2014

October 29th, 2014