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Herald-Mail will continue to endorse candidates

September 26, 2010|By JOHN LEAGUE
  • John League
,

Several years ago, some of the top editors here and I were discussing whether The Herald-Mail should be in the business of endorsing candidates.

I was in the camp that thought that we should not be doing so.

My comfort level as a journalist has always been this: Gather all the information you can, present it to the reader and let him or her decide what position to stake out.

I recognize that people approach positions from all angles, perspectives, personal agendas and prejudices. Presenting the information, as fairly and completely as possible, is the most important function of the press, in my opinion.

But as I began asking folks in the community whether they thought we should be in the business of endorsing candidates, the overwhelming answer I got was a version of this: I frequently disagree with your endorsements, but I want to hear what the newspaper has to say before I make up my mind. If nothing else, it makes me think.

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And so, we continue to endorse candidates, mainly on the local and state level. And we will do so for the November general election.

Our goal is to try to determine the candidates who have the best interest of the community at heart, are smart enough to accept the responsibilities of the job, and demonstrate through the campaign some degree of integrity and commitment - the ability to work hard - for the position that they seek.

Our reporters know many of the candidates as well as anyone in the community. They spend a good chunk of their time during the campaign following them to forums, debates and other events. While the reporters do not have a say in any endorsement, they might be asked to share their knowledge with the editorial board that makes the endorsement decisions.

Those of us at the newspaper who are out in the community also get a perspective of the candidates, and we certainly hear from readers who interact with them.

In an endorsement, we attempt to explain why we're taking the position that we're taking, and why the candidate we endorse is best suited for the job.

Do we expect our endorsement to influence the election? Absolutely not. And you can take a look at our and other newspapers' track records over the years to see how many times our endorsement has had little impact in an election.

Most recently, we endorsed Sen. Donald F. Munson for state Senate in the GOP primary. Del. Christopher Shank won the primary handily.

Obviously, whoever read our endorsement was not swayed by our reasoning. And that's as it should be. We are but one voice in the political process. We don't ever see ourselves as THE voice.

And one final word on the primary.

My mother and father pounded into my head that voting was a responsibility as a citizen. In their mind, it was an act of patriotism.

So I believe I've voted in every election but one, even when it took me less than 15 seconds to cast a ballot because there just wasn't much, if any, competition.

The election turnout for the primary was about 25 percent here. That's abysmal.

If you've got any ideas on what the community needs to do to better engage our citizenry to register and to vote, I'm all ears.

My e-mail address is below. If you have any ideas, send them to me.

John League is editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7073, or by e-mail at jleague@herald-mail.com">jleague@herald-mail.com.

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