Tuesday, October 14, 2008
With ballots for the November vote-by-mail general election due to start going out Oct. 17, one of the frequently asked questions of us at the Itemizer-Observer from candidates, ballot measure sponsors and voters is "when will your endorsement editorials start appearing in the newspaper."
Well, at least for now, not anytime soon.
The Itemizer-Observer has chosen for many years not to write endorsement editorials, or offer voter recommendations, for a number of reasons -- the most important reason being it's not our opinion that matters. The only opinion that matters when casting a vote is yours.
Many of us don't like being told by others what to do when it comes to anything, let alone something as personal as voting. While newspapers like the Itemizer-Observer need to take on a leadership role within the communities they serve, several national studies in recent years have shown that endorsements made by newspapers have little actual impact on election outcomes.
Community newspapers like ours are also in the inevitable position of knowing many of the candidates and those close to ballot measures during the election season. These people are, after all, our friends and neighbors, those we do business with, go to church with, play summer league softball with, and who we see in other social situations. There can be assumptions made -- wrongly -- that the newspaper is simply endorsing a good friend, a regular advertiser or the relative of an employee. Some candidates believe they can't get "a fair shake" because someone in the newspaper's management prefers to endorse a longtime friend for office. By not making endorsements, we avoid any possible criticism of being biased in our decision-making process.
Instead of making endorsements, we prefer to provide as much information on local candidates and issues leading up to the election as time, space and staffing allows. We also prefer to provide a great deal of space via our Letters to the Editor section for community dialogue and debate on the election.
There probably isn't a newspaper in our state -- a community newspaper in particular -- that devotes as much space and has as lenient of a Letters to the Editor policy as we do. Many papers limit the amount of space they will allow for letters in each issue. The volume of letters we are receiving and publishing is nothing short of remarkable. We love reading your letters, and readers have regularly told us that one of their favorite parts of the I-O each week is the Letters to the Editor section. Rather than having just our opinion on a candidate or measure, we can share the opinions of a number of differing viewpoints -- including yours -- by devoting less space to endorsements and more space to your letters.
So, when it comes down to deciding whether the Central or Dallas school district bonds are a wise investment, whether it should be Berger or Riggs in House District 20 or Brown or Thompson in House District 23, or whether McCain or Obama will best lead out nation, isn't the person you want making that decision you?
When all is said and done, our opinion isn't the one that counts. It's yours.