Reactions to newspaper endorsements always kind of surprise me. For at least the entire time I’ve been in the newspaper business the past 23 years, there has always been a debate about whether newspapers should endorse candidates.
Of course, newspaper endorsements of presidential candidates usually spark the most controversy and ire, even death threats and bomb threats and all sorts of nonsense. But local endorsements, whether for mayor, city council or state legislators and governors, also draw questions and concerns.
The Idaho Press-Tribune’s editorial board continues to endorse candidates at a local level, state legislative level and for the governor. Last month, leading up to the city elections, the editorial board endorsed Bob Henry for Nampa mayor, Kenny Wroten, Rick Hogaboam and Randy Haverfield for Nampa City Council, Garret Nancolas for Caldwell mayor and Madga Ruano, Dennis Callsen and Rob Hopper for Caldwell City Council.
The editorial board is made up of four community members, our publisher Matt Davison and me. I am a non-voting member of the board.
Community members are just that — members of the community. They live in Nampa and Caldwell, work here, pay taxes here, send their kids to school here, retire here. Each year, around May, we put out the call to the community to come join our editorial board. We usually get a healthy pool of applicants, and then Matt Davison and I select four or five members to serve on the board. We have a great group of engaged and smart community members this year.
The endorsements the board made this year were based on the answers that the candidates supplied in response to the Idaho Press-Tribune’s candidate survey as well as the candidates’ performances at the Idaho Press-Tribune’s candidate forums, which the editorial board members either attended or watched via video after the fact.
In addition, editorial board members have spent the past year reading the Idaho Press-Tribune, discussing the issues, coming up with editorial ideas. They are engaged and informed.
First, I think it’s important to point out that editorials and endorsements are those of the editorial board, which is a separate entity from the reporters in the newsroom. The opinions of the board are the opinions of the board — not of the Idaho Press-Tribune as an organization or newsroom.
Many times, as well, there is not total agreement on an issue. Some editorial board members disagree with other members, and we try to reflect that in the writing of that editorial.
Second, I think it’s kind of an old-fashioned notion that a newspaper editorial, particularly an endorsement, is somehow the word of God. I know it’s serious and important, but I always believe there’s room for reasonable disagreement on issues, and I see an editorial more as a longer, more in-depth, informed letter to the editor. Readers are more than free to disagree with the opinions in an editorial. In that vein, endorsements are recommendations based on what the editorial board members have learned and have opinions about.
The editorial board is not “telling you who to vote for” or “what to think.” I see it more as your neighbor leaning over the fence telling you who he or she is going to vote for. Which makes sense, because the editorial board members are your neighbors.
If editorials and endorsements spur a conversation about issues and candidates, promote a deeper look at those issues and candidates and cause everyone involved to think more deeply about the opinions they hold, and possibly even change their mind based on new and opposing information, then an editorial has done its job.
In that spirit, the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board will continue to write editorials and endorse candidates.