From the Editor...Think for yourselvesAlthough our newspaper is packed to the brim with all kinds of news and sports this week, there’s one category of story you won’t find inside the Pine Journal this week: Political endorsements.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Although our newspaper is packed to the brim with all kinds of news and sports this week, there’s one category of story you won’t find inside the Pine Journal this week: Political endorsements.
For those who don’t know, endorsements are statements of opinion advocating for a particular candidate.
In the case of newspapers, an endorsement usually comes with a lengthy explanation of why the editorial board feels that particular candidate would better represent the town/county/region/state.
I used to think that newspapers should never endorse candidates.
Then I attended a Minnesota Newspaper Association class on writing editorials. The instructor didn’t share my opinion. In fact, he considered endorsing almost a sacred duty for every newspaper.
Provided it’s done right.
The correct way to determine which candidate to endorse, he said, was to come up with the questions AND the answers the editorial board wants to hear in advance of the interviews. Each candidate should get the same questions with the same people in attendance at the interviews. In the end, the candidate to endorse is the one whose answers mostly closely matched what the editorial board thought were the correct answers.
Doing it that way, he argued, means a newspaper won’t choose a candidate based on personality, party, appearance or any other factor than the answers given.
So, while I was convinced by his argument, my opinion hasn’t changed much. I still think most (not all) newspapers should avoid endorsing candidates. That’s because I have yet to work at a paper where that’s exactly how the endorsement process went.
At my first paper, various people sat in on the interviews, basically whatever warm body happened to be in the newsroom when the candidate arrived. And, in the end, the publisher had A LOT more voting power than anyone else who sat in on the interview. Not exactly an unbiased process.
At my second paper, it seemed like being endorsed by the newspaper simply ensured a candidate would lose, which was also disheartening.
At the Pine Journal, there are a number of reasons we don’t endorse.
No. 1, in my book, we’d rather spend our limited time writing stories that tell our readers more about the candidates and their views, background and history (in addition to writing all the other stories that particular week).
No. 2, we’re not convinced endorsements (from anyone) matter all that much in this day and age. After all, people in today’s world will argue against something presented as scientific fact until they’re blue in the face, so why would they vote according to someone else’s opinion, unless it happened to coincide with their own?
Most importantly, who are we or anyone else to tell you how to vote?
Think for yourselves.