Last week’s question about whether the newspapers should publish candidate endorsements spawned some eye-opening exchanges with readers and some thoughtful answers.
I was so impressed with the responses that I decided to devote more space to them. To do that, I had to cut Kathleen Parker’s column from the print edition to make room. Apologies to her fans; however, you can read it online in the opinion section (www.spokesman.com).
Before getting to the responses, I feel like I need to clarify a couple of things:
We used to sign the editorials, but many readers believed them to be solely the view of the authors. Editorials are meant to reflect the view of the board, not just the author. At this point, the board is made up of Publisher Stacey Cowles and me. We are not trying to hide the author’s identity.
I write the editorials, and I also write this column. The difference is that the column is solely my view, whereas the editorials are the view of the board. Granted, it can be confusing, but I hope this clarifies the matter.
But that’s my opinion, and I’m open to examples of opinion pieces that have expunged all bias. If you see an “objective opinion,” send it my way.
THE PROPOSITION. Last week I asked the following: Do you think newspapers should endorse candidates? Should they weigh in on any issue?
Here are the responses, and thanks for participating:
“Newspapers should be free to endorse candidates and weigh in on issues, but newspapers also should devote lots of space to guest columns and letters to the editor so we can be exposed to many different views and opinions.” – Kerry Master, Liberty Lake
Newspapers should endorse candidates and provide an opinion on issues – especially for local candidates and issues. As stated in the piece, The Spokesman interviews the candidates and (hopefully) is more informed on the issues than most readers. I like politics and try to stay informed, but don’t have the time to keep up on everything (not my job). I rely on The Spokesman and other publications to provide opinions on issues important to me. As long as the reasoning behind the opinion or endorsement is given, I find it useful, whether I agree or not. – Donald Chadbourne, Spokane Valley
“Don’t endorse! If that’s too brief, here’s why. Yours is an esteemed position guaranteed by nothing less than the Constitution. Your most important responsibility is to be the guardian of the truth, as unbiased as possible. Tell us what the candidate’s positions are and let us decide. It seems an impossible position to put yourself into if on the one hand you endorse a candidate, yet on the other try to be equally fair to all in your written reporting. A preference stated certainly diminishes the perception, if nothing else, that your reporting is then unbiased.” – Bruce Bruscia, Medical Lake
“Discourse, and most especially political discourse, requires that people be willing to state their views and provide their reasons for those views. Others can then decide whether those reasons are valid, whether to take them seriously or not, and offer their own arguments and reasons in return. To suggest that offering opinions with accompanying reasons in support is the same as telling someone how to vote is to show ignorance. The increasing scarcity of discourse is a sign of the worsening political state of America. Please do not give in to the ignorant; instead, continue to offer arguments and reasons, expect others to do the same, and try your best to bring political discourse up from its current gutter level.” – Sandra L. Christensen, Spokane
“My answer is yes, as I rely heavily on getting unbiased information on the candidates’ viewpoints from The Spokesman-Review, and usually vote along the lines of its endorsements. The campaign ads and flyers that we receive from the candidates are so one-sided that without the opinions from The Spokesman, I would be at a loss to know the true positions of the candidates. Please keep informing your readers, as that is one of the many reasons I subscribe to The Spokesman.” – Linda Cunningham, Spokane
“I have no problems with endorsements as long as the reasons for that endorsement are factually spelled out. I may not agree but seeing the other side of an argument helps me make a better educated decision.” – Lynn Treffry, Spokane
“Newspapers (or any other media) have a right to endorse candidates. If they accept and print letters to the editor extolling the qualities of a candidate, or denouncing those qualities, they should make public endorsements. Likewise any other public issue. Readers don’t have to agree, or even read them, if they don’t want to. – Lowell Lehman, Spokane
“I think it’s fine for newspapers to endorse candidates, even though the large majority of them are liberal biased. Most discerning readers are aware of a paper’s leaning, and those that are not paying enough attention to notice probably don’t vote anyway.” – Hal Dixon, Spokane
“My husband and I had a discussion about your column in Sunday’s paper. We agreed that any newspaper, as a whole, should not come across as biased. First of all, not everyone at any paper agrees with everyone else at the paper, including the editor. It would be a real problem if employment was based on agreeing with the employer. All sides of every issue should be given equal exposure in order to make well-informed decisions. To take someone else’s opinion just because you know and trust them is lazy. Everyone is ignorant about something. We all need to learn from each other. I don’t really care for politics. Politics may be your passion. Try to be as objective and fact-oriented as possible when stating your views. And, make sure everyone knows that they are your views and not objective reality. Own your opinion without trying to impose or force it on others. That goes for you as an individual and The Spokesman-Review as a whole.” – Candy Frankel, Spokane
“Yes, I do believe that editorial boards can perform a useful service in this regard, and I read as many sources as I can. They have the advantage of being able to actually interview the candidates in person, ask directed questions, gauge the veracity of the responses and perhaps read nonverbal clues. This is an opportunity the voter will never have in the barrage of carefully scripted appearances, stump speeches and useless political ads that we now call a campaign. This makes it even more important for the board to deliberately explore topics that are outside this ‘noise’ but perhaps much more important in helping inform the voter.” – Mike Almond, Mead
“Yes, certainly the editorial board should endorse candidates. No doubt you will provide the reasons for your selections, and we your readers will consider your arguments and either go along with you or not.” – Catharine Roth, Spokane
“It is acceptable for editorial boards to weigh in on issues and endorse candidates, as long as it is clear that it’s opinion. However, endorsements from you, Paul Ryan or any other person mean nothing to me – nothing.” – Wayne Martrildonno, Spokane
“For years, I cringed at some of our paper’s endorsements. Neutrality is the best. It should encourage registering and voting, then objectively give each party’s positions. Example: If you believe (synopsis of party’s beliefs), then your vote should go to (fill in name), for that person most reflects how you feel. If you believe (synopsis of other party’s beliefs), then your vote should be given to its candidate. Perhaps the message should close with a plea to young people to register if they haven’t, and then follow through with a vote, even if it is not their favorite, but is closer to their beliefs.” – Nina Elo, Mead
“I believe the newspaper should print endorsements, opinion columns and local opinion letters. My main caveat would be to label the columns and endorsements as opinion pieces. The letters are already distinguished as such. Some of the opinion columns present opinion as fact, which, to me, comes across as misleading. Also, if opinion columnists make sweeping generalities, they should back the information with a website indicating where they found proof of the information. Syndicated columnists should have a brief description of their position and publication for which they write, which leads a reader to be more informed of their bias.” – Steve LaCombe, Spokane Valley
“Absolutely, you should make endorsements and weigh in on issues. I like to see what you have to say, and I don’t have to agree. Perhaps your critics don’t know it’s an opinion and that it is protected by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.” – Larry Plager, Medical Lake
Opinion Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.
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