Endorsing part of Tribune’s responsibility

Published 11:43 pm Saturday, November 1, 2008

Every year, I get asked the same question, though it may vary just a bit.

“Why in the world does the Tribune endorse candidates in local elections? Do you like having people mad at you?”

And the answer is always the same: Of course not, but we feel the newspaper has a tremendous responsibility to our readers and Lawrence County’s citizens to take a stand in political races that could have dramatic impacts on our communities.

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After all, we will hold our elected officials accountable for their actions once in office so it only makes sense that we weigh in on who we think is the best candidate before they get there.

An important point to realize is that the editorial board — managing editor Rick Greene and myself — really aren’t telling someone who to vote for. What we are saying is that this is who, in our opinion, will best serve the voters.

Are we always right? Of course not. Are we ever right? Who knows?

But I can assure you that the endorsements are based solely on our assessment of the candidates and their qualifications. There are no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas or party affiliations.

We meet with each candidate in select races and spend time trying to get inside his or her head and find out what makes them tick. We also consider information from candidate forums, campaign material, track records, news articles and other public activities.

This year, our endorsements were especially difficult because we have many quality candidates looking to serve the public. In some cases, the differences between candidates were minimal when their strengths and weaknesses were compared.

Ultimately, we endorsed the candidates who we believed could move the county forward and a big part of what led us to this was experience.

We would have loved to have endorsed in every race, but we chose to focus on sheriff, commissioner, state representative and state senator.

That decision has opened the way for a new one: “Why aren’t you endorsing in the presidential race?”

The decision not to do so created some spirited debate among the staff.

Ultimately, it comes down to credibility and taking a stand on what we know best.

Do we know everything there is to know about the local offices and their impact in the county? Not even close, but we do have a strong understanding of the community, the role of these officials, the types of decisions that will need to be made and the impact of those decisions.

The presidential race is simply too vast and the issues facing that office are simply too broad for us to have any real expertise. It would be impossible for us to weigh in with any real credibility.

An analogy I use is that of a college student or private individual who writes movie reviews.

Has this individual watched a lot of movies? Sure. Have they read volumes about the subject? Probably. But why do I or anyone else care about their opinion? What gives their view any more weight than my own view?

They simply don’t have the expertise or credibility to be compelling.

As a local newspaper, we can understand and analyze local issues and what candidates hope to accomplish far better than we can the highly complex national issues that affect the nation in a myriad of ways.

In the end, our endorsements are simply the view of two individuals and often times don’t reflect the diverse views of many others on the newspaper staff.

So we may make a few people mad, but we can never be accused of being too scared to stand up for what we think is best for Lawrence County.