The negative ads. The robo-calls. The cable TV pundits yelling from the screen. It seems everyone has an opinion about the upcoming election.
(We interrupt this column to invite you to click here, where youll find our endorsement in the race for governor.)
Thats right. The News Tribune editorial board will be one more voice offering an opinion this election season. Even at a time when opinions abound, we believe we still have something to offer when it comes to evaluating candidates. Heres why:
• We have direct access to candidates in a way most of our readers dont.
• We spend our work lives gathering information about local issues and people, and hopefully have some wisdom to share. Opinions are easy to come by; well-reasoned ones with a local bent are not.
• If our editorial boards ultimate goal is to help make this a better place to live and it is why would we stop short of offering our thoughts on who should govern us?
Not every newspaper agrees.
The Chicago Sun-Times announced in January it would no longer endorse candidates for office. It would provide facts about the candidates and offer assessments by civic groups. The editorial board, however, would stick to opining on issues rather than races.
Its rival, The Chicago Tribune, responded in part: We can think of our own reasons to stop making endorsements. They antagonize some readers. They demand hundreds of hours of work to dig through the records and positions of candidates for office. They often require us to hold our nose and choose the less awful of the choices. They allow the fiercest partisans to dismiss us as Republican shills or Democratic lapdogs.
We respect the decision by The Sun-Times, but we intend to keep doing endorsements. As the biggest newspaper in Chicago and the Midwest, we want to inform our readers and encourage them to push an agenda for a more vital community. The most direct way they do that is in choosing who will lead their government.
Admitting that it might sound corny, TNT editorial page editor Patrick OCallahan offered this explanation: First and foremost, we run these endorsements because we care about our communities.
Every member of our five-member editorial board Publisher David Zeeck, editorial writer Cheryl Tucker, Managing Editor Dale Phelps, OCallahan and myself has deep family roots in the South Sound. We live here and raised our children here. We want healthy neighborhoods and a strong economy.
Collectively, we have more than 100 years experience following events in this area. Few organizations bring this kind of experience to their endorsements. Those that do tend to have narrow focuses on judges or schools, for example or are chiefly protecting the interests of business or labor groups.
"Im sometimes asked what qualifies us to evaluate candidates, OCallahan said. For starters, weve known and observed many of them for years, and we try to interview all the credible candidates in person. We dont rely on questionnaires, as do most organizations that rate office-seekers. We have an unusual firsthand knowledge of many of these individuals.
Our editorial board membership represents a fairly broad political spectrum, but our endorsements dont start from a purely partisan point of view. Were looking for the person to best represent a given district. Our picks this year, as in years past, include Democrats and Republicans. Read closely, and youll notice the difference between candidates we endorse heartily and those we endorse hesitantly.
The more local the race, it seems, the more we have to offer. Try to find another source that digs as deeply on the state legislative races or the Pierce County Council. Some newspapers that endorse in local races are not endorsing in the presidential race. The Oregonian is one of them.
The access and close observation that inform our endorsements for state and local offices and Congress do not apply in a national race, the paper said in an August editorial.
The TNT editorial board met last week to decide whether to endorse in the race for president. Its the only race for which we havent interviewed the candidates in person. Still, we can bring our best thinking and a South Sound perspective to this most important decision. Were inclined to identify the handful of issues we think matter most to us locally and offer our thoughts on how each presidential candidate stacks up.
Like all the other opinions on our editorial pages, ours will be there for you to consider as you formulate your own. Or not, if you so choose.
We comment all year long on government decisions that affect the South Sound in positive and negative ways, OCallahan said. I think we would be derelict if we then made no recommendations on the candidates whod make those decisions.
Karen Peterson: 253-599-8434