To endorse or not to endorse. That is the question.
Since we went live with our news website ClarkCountyToday.com, I have very much enjoyed my interaction with those of you who have taken the time to send me your thoughts on subjects ranging from your initial impressions of our product to things you would like to see covered in Clark County.
I keep telling our staff members that we aren’t even close to reaching our cruising altitude, but I’m very happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish to this point. Please give us some time because I promise we will continue to get better each day.
One reader of ClarkCountyToday.com took the time to write to me with some thoughts about political endorsements. She forwarded me a 2014 article from the Columbia Journalism Review that made the claim that “the traditional endorsement is increasingly being tinkered with — or dropped altogether. Dozens of newspapers have stopped making endorsements over the last two election cycles, often citing doubts about their impact and fears that, in a polarized era, endorsements put the credibility of the paper’s political coverage at risk.’’
I would go a step further. I would say political endorsements by a news organization could put the credibility of everything they do at risk.
In my six years as editor of The Reflector Newspaper, I never made one single political endorsement. In my time as a reporter at the same paper, I don’t recall the previous owner and publisher Marvin Case making any endorsements. Case owned the paper for 31 years so I’m not going to profess to know whether or not he ever endorsed a candidate in his tenure.
But, Case taught me to make every effort possible not to attempt to influence an election. At The Reflector, we even went to the extent to count the words in each story, making sure stories about competing candidates were the same length. We made sure if one had a photo of the candidate, both did. If possible, we tried to publish the stories on the competing candidates side-by-side on the same page. All of this wasn’t always possible, but it’s an example of how serious we were about not trying to give any candidate an edge over another.
It’s much more difficult in opinion pieces, such as this one. What’s an opinion piece without an opinion? I have found in the years that I have offered columns and editorials, most of you enjoy reading another writer’s insight and perspective. It often stimulates participation by many of you to offer your own thoughts on a subject in the form of a letter to the editor. At ClarkCountyToday.com, I want that community to exist where we are all engaged and participate in an exchange of thoughtful ideas and opinions.
So, in this space, I will share with you my personal insight and perspective. Over the years, I’ve often heard from loyal readers who tell me, “I don’t always agree with you …’’ I would think it would be impossible for anyone to agree with me all the time. In fact, it would sound off some kind of a warning alarm to me if we did.
Those of you who have read my editorials over the years, should be able to attest to the fact that when I share my opinion, I don’t do it in a way that is meant to try to influence the way you view a topic. I only want you to take the time to make your own informed decision.
The stances of news organizations when it comes to the endorsement issue varies significantly. There are those in the industry who believe a truly independent journalist should not even be a registered voter. That seems a bit extreme to me. I don’t mind journalists who take the time to vote, I just prefer they keep that information to themselves.
Whether I’m right or wrong, I don’t plan to ever tell you how to vote. I agree with the Columbia Journalism Review article. If I know a particular news organization has a horse in the race, especially if that organization tends to lean in the same ideological direction every time, why would I take any news they offered as objective or credible? And, what does it say about a news organization who proudly gloats about their ability to influence an election? Doesn’t that strip away every ounce of integrity they have? It certainly does for me.
So, feel free to express your thoughts about any of the races in the upcoming election in the form of a letter to the editor (send to firstname.lastname@example.org). I will read them and publish them. But, I won’t tell you how to write them.