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Election Day 2023: The first time I was called a fascist as a member of local media

Rebecca Barnabi
(© 3desc – stock.adobe.com)

As a local journalist off and on since 2007, I’ve worked quite a few Election Days.

In fact, a few days ago, I realized the only Election Days I haven’t worked were 2008, 2009, 2010, 2020 and 2021.

So, I was shocked yesterday to encounter a first for me on Election Day.

Just when I thought I had seen and heard it all in journalism.

Apparently, I had not.

Yesterday I visited a few polling locations in Staunton to gather local voter reaction to Election Day, find out what issues they were most concerned with this year and who received their votes.

I know to expect more rejections than acceptance with this exercise, and I respect that some voters will not feel comfortable speaking with a journalist or having what they say publicly shared.

A man yesterday was comfortable sharing his perspective with polling volunteers so I gave him an opportunity to speak on the record. He declined, and I was fine with that.

However, then he proceeded to begin to speak negatively about the press and mention fascism. I asked him: “In this context, who are the fascists?” He didn’t clearly answer me, but I think he was trying to say I was a fascist and attempted to explain that he had previously worked for the government and knew to be fearful of publicly sharing his opinion.

Several times I gave him an opportunity to exit the conversation by saying: “Don’t let me keep you from voting today.” But he continued to try to talk down to me, probably because I appear young. I had to let him know I am in my 40s and that as a journalist, I know what is going on politically in the United States. I didn’t become a journalist the day before.

At one point, he also attempted to try to lump the press in with politics. I had to explain to him that I am not Democrat or Republican. I am a member of the press, a completely separate entity. I am here to share the truth with readers. I do not control the news or what happens. I simply respond to the news by writing about it.

I should have mentioned to him that if my college had allowed minors, I would have minored in American history. And that I’ve studied World War II and understand the word fascism.

Apparently, he does not.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.