Advice for an imperfect world: doing the voters' legwork: everyone's a publisher now.In a perfect world, editorial writers wouldn't need to endorse political candidates. Every voting-age American would research the background, ideology, and experience of the people seeking office. They'd go beyond campaign advertising and ten-second sound bites sound bite
A brief statement, as by a politician, taken from an audiotape or videotape and broadcast especially during a news report: "The box has been spitting forth maddening nine-second sound bites" to ferret out truth from opposition research.
They'd use public records to identify those with outstanding back taxes, or criminal records, or multiple marriage certificates and divorce decrees (not that there's anything wrong with that) even though they claim to be the family values family values
The moral and social values traditionally maintained and affirmed within a family. candidates.
They may be, but they should have to explain what appears to be a disconnect disconnect - SCSI reconnect or an epiphany Epiphany (ĭpĭf`ənē) [Gr.,=showing], a prime Christian feast, celebrated Jan. 6, called also Twelfth Day or Little Christmas. Its eve is Twelfth Night. .
And since this is a perfect world I've created, every American age eighteen and up would embrace the fundamental importance of citizen engagement in the democratic process by actually going to the polls to cast an informed ballot. Okay, back to reality.
The average American, no matter how well-intentioned or interested in politics, doesn't have the time or the expertise to root out this information.
Editorial staffs may not have the time they once had, what with the increasing demands to produce podcasts and blogs and organize community forums and who knows what else, but they still have an obligation to stimulate citizens to involve themselves in this great representative republic. Compelling arguments presented in a well-researched recommendation can serve as that stimulus.
A popular argument against putting oneself through the laborious la·bo·ri·ous
1. Marked by or requiring long, hard work: spent many laborious hours on the project.
2. Hard-working; industrious. endorsement process cites research that indicates endorsements don't affect elections.
The more visible or high-profile the race, the less an endorsement means, or so sayeth the research. A newspaper's recommendation in a presidential election rarely changes a mind, although depending on how a reader has labeled the paper's ideology, it can confirm what's long been suspected about a liberal or conservative bias. (For the purposes of this piece, I'm talking I'm Talking was a 1980s Australian funk-pop rock band, noted for launching vocalist Kate Ceberano. History
After the break-up of the Melbourne-based experimental funk band Essendon Airport in 1983, members Robert Goodge (guitar), Ian Cox (saxophone) and Barbara Hogarth about newspapers but the same concerns may be expressed about broadcast endorsements and institutional opinions on the web.)
Down ballot races are a different story.
"In elections for school boards, city councils and--in the states that elect them--judges, an ordinary citizen has no real way to make logical and informed decisions," said Paul Harral, the Star-Telegram's editor of the editorial page. "Editorial recommendations and endorsements are the prime source on these races--and that is why it is so vital that we do our homework on these races.
"The water board is not as much fun as the presidential race. But it is very important to the person who expects water when he or she turns on the tap."
Harral's not kidding about the water board. In Texas, we elect everyone from the governor and judges to the board of regents An independent governing body that oversees a state's public Colleges and Universities.
All 50 states have governing bodies that oversee the administration of public education. at the county college district.
As newspapers cut staffs and redirect their efforts into things that are more splashy splash·y
adj. splash·i·er, splash·i·est
1. Making or likely to make splashes.
2. Covered with splashes of color.
3. Showy; ostentatious. See Synonyms at showy. and entertaining, government news too often is a casualty. Someone has to fill that void, and editorial pages are the only ones left to do it.
Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today USA Today
National U.S. daily general-interest newspaper, the first of its kind. Launched in 1982 by Allen Neuharth, head of the Gannett newspaper chain, it reached a circulation of one million within a year and surpassed two million in the 1990s. , once wrote in a column, "Don't let anyone tell you how to mark your ballot."
Sorry, Al, but an endorsement is not a dictate. It is information potential voters can reference before making what in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. is a free-will decision.
Ed Williams, the Charlotte Observer's editor of the editorial page, offered a clear parry to Neuharth's thrust.
"I'd point out one significant difference between my newspaper and two of the best-known newspapers that don't endorse, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today," Williams wrote in a 2004 NCEW NCEW National Conference of Editorial Writers listserv exchange on the issue. "We serve a compact geographic area. Virtually all our subscribers and advertising come from this area. We have a stake in its welfare. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today serve national audiences, thus don't have the local responsibilities and opportunities that newspapers such as the Observer have."
As tightening resources necessitate our pages' pinpointed focus on local, local, local, those responsibilities and opportunities will become even more important to the continued relevance of the editorial voice.
Jill "J.R." Labbe is the deputy editorial page editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is a major U.S. daily newspaper serving Fort Worth and the western half of the North Texas area known as the Metroplex. Its area of domination is checked by its main rival, The Dallas Morning News and NCEW's immediate past president. Email: jdabbe@ star-telegram.com