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No endorsements, just your own good thinking

6:37 pm October 12th, 2012

PAT JENKINS

Dispatch editor

 

Once upon a time, the news media could stretch the bulk of its pre-election coverage of candidates and issues much closer to election day. Not any more. The virtually all-mail voting, in which citizens in Pierce County and the rest of Washington can start casting ballots weeks before the actual election day, make it necessary to pump out ample coverage before that voting begins.

This week and next week are all that’s left before ballots are mailed to voters Oct. 19. So you’re seeing a good dose of election news today, followed by more next week.

But there won’t be any candidate endorsements by us. The Dispatch chooses not to take sides with any candidates or ballot measures this year, nor – we hope – in years to come. It’s not because we might not have any preferences. We just don’t think our opinion is necessary in the election process.

Newspapers have traditionally used their editorials to give a big thumbs-up to their favorite candidates, but we have a different attitude about endorsements. We don’t believe newspapers should do them. We’re confident that voters can make up their own minds without any prodding from us. Chances are they don’t care what we think, anyway, nor should they. People should take voting seriously and form their opinions based on as wide a variety of information as they can find. We’ll also pass along the opinions of contributors to our opinion page because that’s what it’s for.

But we’ll keep our own opinion to ourself, because we never want our readers to think we’re biased in our coverage of candidates. They could easily make that conclusion if we endorsed one or the other. I would hope they’d be wrong about that, but it still would be a reasonable suspicion or outright belief for voters, candidates and their supporters, given the volatility of politics – especially emotional, partisan politics. We’d rather stick to straight information than risk losing readers’ faith in our objectivity.

At other newspapers where I’ve carried out a no-endorsements policy, some readers complained that we were wimps or abdicating, in their view, the media’s responsibility to generate debate and critical thinking. So be it. The best role for The Dispatch is to be a resource for voters by providing news and information about the candidates and issues through fair and balanced coverage of campaigns.

The only time we’d make an exception would be if – and it’s a gargantuan if – a candidate was clearly and totally unfit for office, yet stood a chance of being elected. For the public’s sake and our own conscience, we would have to formally endorse a more suitable opponent, or at least point out the folly of voting for the one who’s unfit.

No such discomforts exist this year, so The Dispatch will remain an endorsement-free zone. As far as we’re concerned, you’re on your own for forming your opinions about candidates and issues and how to vote. And you’ll do great.

 

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 360-832-4697, editor@dispatchnews.com

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