In recent years, many newspapers have backed away from endorsing political candidates – newspapers like our neighbor The Arizona Republic.
Here is what the Republic wrote when it announced that decision in February 2020: “They (readers) tell us our endorsements alienate them and blur the way they read our news stories. They don’t see the sharp line we draw between our news and opinion content.”
Given today’s polarized environment, why would any newspaper – including the Journal – continue to endorse candidates? Why run the risk of alienating a sizable portion of our audience? Are endorsements even still worth the great effort that goes into them?
Each election season, we ask those very questions. After all, our lives certainly would be easier without this process. This primary season alone, members of our editorial board conducted interviews with 45 candidates.
But we still believe it’s worth it – especially when it comes to local races. And apparently many of you do, too. We still get calls asking when our endorsements will appear; and most candidates still respond to our invitation to be interviewed – a decision we respect and appreciate.
Here is what editorial board editor D’Val Westphal wrote in a column a few years back.
“… while political endorsements are among the most time-consuming things we do as a board, they are among the most important things we do for our readers. An informed electorate is a cornerstone of democracy, and we take our role as the Fourth Estate very seriously.”
She pointed out that few people have the time to comb through news coverage; read the questionnaires, columns and letters candidates submit; gather and compare candidate campaign literature; and then interview candidates in local, statewide and congressional contested races.
From there, members of the editorial board weigh each race, discuss all the information and come up with a preferred candidate.
Often these are not easy decisions, and our endorsements are not meant to tell readers how to vote. They are meant to inform readers about the candidates’ positions with an explanation of why we think a particular candidate rises above the competition.
Obviously many of our readers have different positions, and our endorsements may actually help them decide our pick is not the person they want to support.
As for the concern that readers can’t draw the line between our endorsements and our reporting: Almost every day the Journal’s opinion pages publish editorials that are full of just that – opinion – while our reporters produce balanced, accurate and thorough stories independent of the editorial board’s opinion pieces.
The same goes for our endorsements; reporters often don’t know who the editorial board is endorsing until the endorsements are published.
But while we consider endorsements important, they are just one piece of the extensive amount of information Journal staffers provide readers leading up to elections.
During this primary campaign, Journal reporters will provide comprehensive coverage of all local, statewide and congressional races. And we have produced a special online election guide (abqjournal.com/election-guide) that also includes Q&As for candidates facing contested races in many legislative contests as well as for all Bernalillo County, statewide and congressional races. The Journal is also joining with KOAT-TV and KKOB News Radio to conduct a debate on May 20 of the Republican candidates for the gubernatorial race, and we will be publishing results of the Journal Poll in that race on May 22.
The endorsements, debate, news coverage and online page are a public service we are proud to offer, and we hope they provide information you find helpful when casting your all-important ballot – whether you agree with our endorsements or not.
Until next month,