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PD Editorial: A change in policy on elections

  • Press Democrat building in Santa Rosa, California on Monday, December 19, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Although candidates have been knocking on doors for weeks, Labor Day weekend is traditionally considered the start of election season, the point where voters begin making up their minds about how they will cast their votes come November.

Given that, we felt this was the right time to inform readers about a policy change here at this newspaper. Beginning with this election, The Press Democrat will no longer endorse candidates for elected office.

The role of newspaper endorsements has been debated in political and journalism circles for some time, never more so than in these times of deep partisan divisions. Many newspapers have chosen to scale back endorsements or eliminate them entirely.

The Oregonian recently told readers that it would not make an endorsement in this year's presidential race. The Chicago Sun-Times announced in January that it would stop recommending candidates, noting, "our goal .<TH>.<TH>. is to inform and influence your thinking, not tell you what to do."

These changes are founded on the belief that endorsements fuel a perception that newspapers are biased, and the best solution is for newspapers to stick to what they do best — giving readers the information they need to make decisions for themselves.

Halifax Media Group, which acquired The Press Democrat in January, has had a no-endorsement practice for its flagship paper in Daytona Beach, Fla. The company has now decided to adopt this policy for all of its member newspapers, including The Press Democrat.

For most of these publications, it will mean no change. The majority of these newspapers, including some that were previously part of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group along with The Press Democrat, already had removed political endorsements from their list of editorial offerings. We were one of those that still offered recommendations on candidates.

But our emphasis today is not just on what will be different with this election cycle. We want to be clear about what will not change. For example, The Press Democrat will continue to take editorial positions on local ballot measures and state propositions. In fact, we have already issued recommendations on two of the 11 propositions on the Nov. 6 state ballot. For those who miss them, these editorials will continue to be posted on PressDemocrat.com. In keeping with tradition, we also will publish a list of these recommendations as we draw nearer to the election.

In addition, we will continue to offer election-related commentary on our opinion pages and continue, through editorials, columns and blog items, to offer ongoing analysis of political campaigns and candidates, although no individual candidate will end up with our full support or endorsement.

Finally, what will not change is this newspaper's commitment to providing authoritative news coverage of North Coast politics and this upcoming election. Readers can continue to expect reporting on individual candidates, election forums and other campaign news that makes us the most comprehensive source for local political news.

As many readers know, those who write opinions and those who write news stories operate separately within The Press Democrat. Our departments are not even on the same floor. The Press Democrat's hope, however, is that this change in policy will make clear that we are all coming from the same place — a desire to give readers the information they need to make their own choices.


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