A friend asked me if we (The Sentinel) planned to endorse a candidate in the upcoming presidential election.
The answer was an emphatic NO!
First, let me address this particular race. I was excited about the prospects of outsiders being in the Republican field this year – Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson.
As the primaries rolled along and “establishment” candidates began to fall, I was hopeful that Carly Fiorina would surge. She illustrated a grasp on the issues and was very good at making her points in brief, succinct, understandable language.
By the time she dropped out, the only person who remained in the race that I felt I could support was John Kasich.
Trump, for me, is simply not an option. But neither is Hillary Clinton.
I can’t make a personal case for voting for either, and we (The Sentinel) surely cannot make a rational argument for either being good for America. That is not to say that neither has an appeal, they do. But their negatives are so great they simply outweigh the positives.
So we will not endorse.
Secondly, the tradition of newspapers endorsing candidates has waned. In the early days of newspapering most publishers were owners and the endorsement usually came directly from the publisher.
As newspapers transitioned to corporate or group ownership, most transitioned to an editorial board that included the publisher and editor, as well as a few other newsroom employees. Most endorsements now come from an editorial board.
Some candidates would like the public to believe there is a conspiracy among journalists to push an agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have worked for several newspaper companies, large and small and only once in some 40 years have I ever been told what to write or not write. Since he owned the paper, I complied, and within 90 days I had sought and found a new job, as any self-respecting journalist would do.
Here at The Sentinel we do not endorse or editorialize to simply check it off the things-to-do list.
When there is an item of local interest that we feel needs to be addressed, additional light shed on a subject, or a nudge given to help officials make a decision, we will weigh in with an editorial.
When there is a specific race where we think we can provide unique insight or clarity, we will do so. But the fact is, in a presidential race most folks have already seen and heard the same information we are privy to.
Because George W. Bush was governor of Texas when I published a paper there I got to know him a bit, which gave me some insight about what kind of president I thought he would be. I shared that insight with our editorial board and we endorsed him.
Another consideration in making an endorsement is perceived fairness in the news. Inside a newspaper operation we understand that there is news and there is opinion and the two are not connected. But outside our office the perception is that there cannot be fairness and objectivity in news if an endorsement is made.
We understand that concern, and it is also a factor in how we handle endorsements.
But the reality of local elections is this: 99 percent of the folks who seek a county commission seat or a seat on a school board are all good people and worthy of your consideration.
These are generally local business or professional people who have earned a good reputation and whose goal is not to enrich themselves but to make their community a better place to live and work.
So there you have it. It’s neither sexy nor conspiratorial. Sorry to disappoint.