Vote November 8: Nine days left to make your decisions
Every day of the year, the opinion pages of the News Tribune and of countless newspapers around the globe are filled with analysis, insight and stands on everything from taxes and trampoline safety to budget battles and baseball. How odd it would...
Every day of the year, the opinion pages of the News Tribune and of countless newspapers around the globe are filled with analysis, insight and stands on everything from taxes and trampoline safety to budget battles and baseball. How odd it would seem for a newspaper to suddenly fall silent over something as vital as elections and the candidates seeking public office.
Nonetheless, I get asked the question all the time, most recently during a Sunday-morning presentation with the Lake Superior Freethinkers: Why make political endorsements at all? Why do newspapers do that?
It's because newspapers' opinion pages can help lead and encourage public dialogues that communities need to have and must have in order to get along and to prosper. During election seasons, those dialogues can be about candidates and races and issues. The discussions can help voters pick leaders who'll be most effective at tackling pressing problems.
By offering endorsements, a newspaper isn't necessarily telling anyone who to vote for or trumpeting one political party over another; it's urging readers to think seriously about who they'll pick, who they feel the best person is for a particular post at a particular time.
Yes, we tell you who we think are the best choices. But, ultimately, you the voter, with pen in hand at your polling place, have the power and make the ultimate call.
"The First Amendment isn't there to guarantee (the press') right to publish recipes and stories about football, (as) important as those things may be to our readers," David Holwerk, a former editorial page editor and former News Tribune editor, once said. "Endorsing is a basic function of the press in our democracy. If we abandon it, we are abandoning one of our primary reasons for existing."
Fortunately for democracy, few papers have abandoned their responsibility.
The News Tribune's institutional voice is determined by editorial board members -- currently Publisher Ken Browall, two employee representatives (right now Director of Finance Jon Buller and Human Resources Coordinator Deb Williams), and me as editorial page editor. Endorsements and other editorial positions are typically reached by a consensus of the board, with the publisher reserving the right to overrule, something he rarely, if ever, does -- and didn't do this election season.
Just as the publisher reserves the right to overrule the editorial board, the News Tribune's owner, Forum Communications Co., reserves the right to speak with a unified voice via all of its media properties. That typically only happens in high-profile, national races and didn't happen at all this election cycle.
If our letters to the editor e-mail inbox is any indication, the News Tribune's endorsements this year -- we've published eight since Oct. 11 -- sparked the emotions of an engaged community. And that's a good thing. That's a big part of the reason why newspapers exist.
Chuck Frederick, is the News Tribune's editorial page editor