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Once again, here come the endorsements

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on July 11, 2010 at 5:30 am with 2 Comments »
July 9, 2010 6:55 pm

The News Tribune and its predecessor papers have run election endorsements for a lot longer than I’ve been here – way back into the 1800s, probably. But some people are always shocked and annoyed when we start publishing them.

We have standard explanations for why we endorse. The best is that The News Tribune’s opinion pages comment on issues affecting the South Sound all year long. Our editorial board isn’t going to suddenly go silent when it comes to choosing the leaders who will – for good or ill – shape the region’s future.

Voters can do what they please with our endorsements; most probably ignore them. But we’ve got as much interest in who gets elected as, say, the Labor Council, the Municipal League or the Republican Party. We also work hard to educate ourselves; we try to interview every serious candidate in every race we get into.

Another explanation has to do with history. Newspapers have always made election endorsements. Before the Civil War, in fact, virtually all newspapers existed to promote political parties, religious beliefs or other causes. It wouldn’t have occurred to anyone that they shouldn’t make endorsements. They often put them on the front page.

In modern newspapers, the opinion section is one of the last surviving vestiges of that old-time advocacy. News reporters and editors are paid to keep their opinions out of the paper; we editorialists are paid to put ours in.

That’s why the word “opinion” appears at the top of the editorial page: truth in labeling.

Today we begin our 2010 endorsements with recommendations on congressional candidates in the August primary. If you disagree, write us a letter to the editor. We may have our opinions; that doesn’t mean we won’t print yours.

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. Whatever1214 says:

    Frequently the criteria necessary to evaluate an opinion is the qualifications of the person who is giving the opinion. For example, if I am having chest pains, I would probably value the opinion of a cardiac doctor over that of a taxi driver.

    Your endorsement “opinions” come without listing any of the qualifications of the person who is issuing the opinion or even who wrote the endorsement.

  2. Patrick O'Callahan says:

    Excellent question.

    Endorsement decisions are made by The News Tribune’s six-member editorial board. If you’re interested in who wrote a particular editorial, watch this blog: Almost always, the author is the writer who posts the editorial the evening before it runs.

    The editorials are not signed because that would misrepresent them as the opinions of single individuals. The entire editorial board decides on their content, and our names are listed on the page each day.

    You can look us up by clicking “editorial board” on the online opinion page; that will give you some standard bio information, like education.

    More to the point, the six of us have worked as journalists in this area a collective 98 years. Many of the measures that wind up on the ballot involve issues we’ve tracked for a very long time – liquor sale privatization and state income taxes, for example. We tend to know the history and the arguments on both sides pretty well, because that’s part of what we do for a living.

    We also know many of the candidates personally. We invite all serious candidates to interview with us in the process of making our endorsement decisions. (We usually don’t interview criminals, perennials, vanity candidates or people who aren’t campaigning.) We’ve had dealings with some office-seekers a good many years.

    I’m not aware of any other group this well-acquainted with almost anything and anyone on the ballot in the region’s major jurisdictions. That doesn’t mean we get it right all the time, but our jobs put us in a good position to make judgments with some basis in the facts.

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