Opinion

Why The Chronicle doesn’t endorse political candidates

This week’s paper has an extensive overview of who is running in which races for the upcoming election season. You’re either on the ballot – or not – at this point with the candidate filing deadline behind us and the Nov. 8 election closer than you think.

There are no doubt many wonderful people among the candidates, fine people who are willing to sacrifice their time for the betterment of our community. 

And, particularly in the rural communities around us in the southern Willamette Valley, many of these people are our family members, friends, and neighbors, taking on responsibilities as unpaid volunteers. 

They are truly participating as servants for the greater good. 

But not all of them.

And that’s one of the reasons why The Chronicle does not endorse individual candidates for any race.

One might ask, “Why let a few rotten apples affect the paper’s policy for all?” Or, “Why not support those we know are worthy?”

Well, because we don’t know, really. Because humans are unpredictable.

That’s not to say we won’t endorse a ballot initiative, levy, or other proposals that make their way to a public vote.

It might be splitting hairs to try to differentiate between a willingness to champion issues but not individual candidates. Certainly, there are candidates who would attempt to implement or block the very issues we would endorse. It’s a distinction that’s worth making.

The issue-oriented ballot measures are based upon a set of community-wide common sense facts, backed by data and research. While nothing is perfect, the facts tend to remain the same and an informed decision – with sincere people who can respectfully disagree – can be reached.

With the human element, well … not so much.

We all know candidates can morph and change, sometimes quite naturally through life and public service experience. 

There is also a demonstrated track record of politicians purposely misleading, lying, and manipulating voters for their own self interests. 

Plenty of newspapers, mostly larger daily newspapers with staff assigned to an editorial board, will endorse specific candidates. That usually happens after the board has met with candidates in face-to-face settings.

The Chronicle, a small, locally owned newspaper, doesn’t have an editorial board. An endorsement would amount to nothing more than a thumbs up from the publisher and executive editor. 

If we endorsed candidates, we might feed into perceptions of bias, particularly in these days when the well-paid CEOs of corporate journalism rub shoulders with the people they are supposed to be holding accountable.

There are two other important points for our rationale.

First, it’s always been our intent to report accurately and fairly, letting our readers make an informed decision on their own.

To that end, we provide newspaper space for any on-ballot candidate who wants to write a guest column explaining their platform. Each candidate also has the opportunity to fill out a lengthy question-and-answer form from the paper. 

We are purposely non-partisan.

Second, a successful candidate might expect more favorable coverage from the paper; on the flip side, a winning candidate we didn’t support might hold a grudge. 

And readers might be perceiving the same thing.

Trust is never easily achieved; it can be damaged or lost entirely, however, in the blink of an eye. 

Knowing what’s in the heart of any person – let alone those running for political positions – is never simple to discern. Even  with those who have the best of intentions.

We’ll stick to the issues.

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