Talk with the Editor: Do endorsements compromise our objectivity?

Our editorial on Sunday reiterated the Daily Herald's commitment to making political endorsements.

Here's one issue the editorial didn't really get into: Do endorsements compromise the newspaper's sense of objectivity in its reporting?

There's no question that this is a complication. I could try to kid myself that, “Well, the reporting stands by itself,” but there certainly have been cases through the years where a candidate who doesn't win our endorsement tries to impugn our reporting as a result of it.

That said, it's not uncommon for candidates also to do that simply if they're the subject of a tough article. And as the Chicago Tribune pointed out in its editorial on this subject, CNN's objectivity comes under fire, and it doesn't make endorsements.

To a great degree, this simply goes with the territory, and I don't think it's a strong argument against doing endorsements.

I do, however, think all of us in the print media could do a better job of clarifying the difference between the Opinion Page and the news pages. In our case, reporters almost always participate in endorsement interviews, but we make a point to keep them separate from the decision-making process on the endorsements. We don't ask for the reporters' opinion; we don't ask who they think we should endorse.

Someone raised the question of identifying the writer of the endorsements and exposing that writer's biases or political leanings.

We take the view that the endorsement truly is a reflection of the newspaper's perspective as a community institution, not the writer's perspective. There have been times — it's not at all uncommon — when a member of our editorial board has endorsed a candidate he or she wouldn't vote for. That's because the endorsement reflects the newspaper's voice, not any of the individual editorial board members.

That voice is based greatly on history and precedent. Historically, the Opinion Page voice of the Daily Herald has been one that we describe as fiscally conservative, socially moderate. Our endorsements generally reflect that. We strive hard to be thorough and to be consistent.

The newspaper's Opinion Page voice is, I think, one that's largely independent. We endorse a lot of Democrats. We endorse a lot of Republicans. Philosophically, our Opinion Page voice values solutions-oriented thought over political party dogma.

That's the best description I can give of it anyway.

I'm interested in your thoughts.

(We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility ... Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen)

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