Wick Communications

I endorse this blog post

In Editorial pages on April 6, 2012 at 9:06 am

Recently, some of us within the company have been discussing the value of political endorsements in newspapers. I have long endorsed political endorsements, and have written about them in this blog before. In 2008, it appeared Wick newspapers were pretty evenly split – 57 percent of those who answered the Kicker poll said they never endorse.

I suspect fewer newspapers endorse now and I think that is a shame.

Today, I read a blog post from retired Palm Beach Post editorial writer Bill McGoun. He took the time to poll members of the Association of Opinion Journalists, asking what they thought of the Chicago Sun-Times recent decision to abandon the practice of endorsement. Perhaps not surprisingly, opinion journalists were opinionated on the matter and thought, for the most part, that the Sun-Times was abdicating its responsibility to readers.

Oh, I hear you out there. Endorsements are terribly labor-intensive. You have to set up interviews, research the issues, write the editorials. And sometimes it seems like the payoff for all that work is that more than half of your readership is angered. It would be so much easier to just cover the election and keep our opinions to ourselves.

I stipulate. Endorsements are a pain in the neck. So why do ’em?

  • You already anger people with your editorials – about inequalities in the school system, wrongheadedness in City Hall, congressional overreach. If your editorials aren’t already making your phone ring with outrage, I suspect your editorials aren’t very good. You can dedicate your page to pablum. You can recognize the good work of the chamber of commerce, congratulate the Little League champs and wish the city manager a happy retirement. But if you aren’t doing more than that, you soon won’t have any readers. I submit to you that that is a bigger problem than a few angry calls. …
  • Helping citizens understand the issues is our prime directive. Forget national politics. Tell them your considered opinion on the school board candidates. Local government is a tedious thing. We are a surrogate for readers a many a water board meeting. Whether they say it or not, many readers count on us to make sense of this stuff.
  • Endorsement meetings can form the foundation of your relations with elected officials. Because of endorsement meetings, I know everyone who has (recently) run for office around my newspaper. They all know that I took them seriously and presume I extended the same courtesy to others. Because they know the newspaper is watching and will report with each new election cycle, they answer our phone calls.

There are undoubtedly circumstances that would lead a publisher not to issue endorsements. I respect, particularly in really small communities, that they can be polarizing. I only ask that you do some soul searching and ask yourself what you are afraid of before you decide not to endorse local candidates.

Clay

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