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Endorsements get endorsement.

If the editors yawned occasionally, blame the time of day, not the topic.

About twenty convention-goers turned out for a 7:30 a.m. Saturday discussion of "Endorsements: Do They Matter?" led by Ed Jones, editor of The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia Fredericksburg is an independent city in the U.S. Commonwealth of Virginia, 50 miles south of Washington, D.C., and 55 miles north of Richmond, Virginia. As of the 2000 census, the city had a population of 19,279. .

A consensus: Yes, they do matter, especially in local races. Yes, they matter even when readers don't take the newspaper's advice. And yes, they matter even if they're rescinded two days before the election.

Candidate endorsements give readers more information on which to base their decisions, said Bonnie Calhoun Williams, editorial page editor of the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina South Carolina, state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures

Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2000) 4,012,012, a 15.

Playing devil's advocate devil's advocate: see canonization. , Jones suggested, "Why not endorse in only some races?"

Doug Floyd, editorial page editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, responded, "They [voters] have to decide; we have to decide." Williams said the omission of an endorsement sends the message that "this issue or candidate isn't important"

Some newspapers stop short of endorsing candidates. Instead, they make "recommendations" or rate candidates on specific issues according to how their views stack up against the newspaper's.

John Taylor, editorial page editor of The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, said he sees such practices as "a copout, a distinction without a difference" Morgan McGinley, editorial page editor of The Day in New London, Connecticut New London is a city and a port of entry on the northeast coast of the United States. It is located at the mouth of the Thames River in southeastern Connecticut.

New London was founded in 1646.
, agreed, saying, "A rating equivocates."

Pete Wasson, opinion editor at the Wausau Daily Herald The Wausau Daily Herald is a daily morning broadsheet printed in Wausau, Wisconsin. It is the primary newspaper in Wausau and is distributed throughout Marathon and Lincoln counties.  in Wisconsin, said, "If you're not offering an endorsement, I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 if you have the right to criticize later"

At The St. Petersburg Times
For the newspaper in Russia, please see St. Petersburg Times (Russia).

The St. Petersburg Times is a daily newspaper based in St. Petersburg, Florida, that serves the larger Tampa Bay area.
 and The Fresno Bee, the decisions were made to "disendorse" candidates when their campaigns took an ugly turn within two days of an election. Editors at both papers thought the about-face enhanced the newspaper's credibility with readers.

Jones asked for shortcuts See Win Shortcuts.  to lessen the burden of adding endorsement interviews to an already full workday. Some editors noted they interview candidates in groups. At The Journal Star in Peoria, the editorial writers devote a Saturday morning to twenty-minute, back-to-back interviews. Floyd said his newspaper doesn't interview candidates who are sure to be endorsed.

When Jones brought the discussion full circle, asking if endorsements really matter, Williams suggested that endorsements in local races do make a difference. 'Readers tell us they use our endorsement boxes," she said.

"Do they provoke discussions and articulate the paper's philosophy and values?" Floyd asked. If so, he said, that's more important "than whether they're followed."

Gayle Beck is editorial page editor of The Repository in Canton, Ohio. E-mail
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Title Annotation:Editorial Workshop
Author:Beck, Gayle
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Dec 22, 2004
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