Monday, February 25, 2008

Endorsing candidates


In this week's issue of The South Texan, the editorial board of the newspaper will endorse candidates for the Democratic and Republican Texas primaries March 4. The editorial board of The South Texan will announce that it will endorse Barack Obama (pictured with this posting) for the Democratic Primary presidential bid, John McCain for the Republican presidential bid, and longtime state representative Juan Escobar for the District 43 seat. Some of the students in our journalism and RTV program questioned the ethics of this move. They feel as if the media's role is to inform and not to tell people how they should exercise their right to vote. They are correct, of course. Information is presented in news pages. Opinions are presented in editorial or op-ed pages. It is in the op-ed pages where newspaper staffs are allowed to take positions on a variety of issues, including elections. Endorsing candidates for office is a long-held American newspaper tradition. In most cases, the decision is arrived at after long discussion and consideration of the candidates' merits by an editorial board. Often, the editorial boards personally interview each candidate (this is a must rule for local races) before reaching a consensus and endorsing a candidate. In rare instances, the publisher or editor of the newspaper make the decision for the editorial staff. For The South Texan, the process of selecting whom was to be endorsed by the staff was handed by Juan Carlos Reyes, Editorial Page Editor and Associate Editor for the newspaper. He polled each member of the editorial staff - composed of editor Dominique Garcia, all the pages editors plus the advertising manger - and then informed them what the decision was. This is not an easy chore. Often, like in an election, the vote is close. The key here is that the newspaper endorses the candidate who received the most votes in the endorsement process. Consensus is reached and a candidate is chosen. Never do we say, flip a coin. They're both so wonderful, etc. An editorial is then written supporting this candidate. The opinion will appear in the newspaper without a byline. In other words, no one person will take credit for that article. The opinion, instead, is that of the entire newspaper staff or newspaper editorial board - a consensus that the candidate is the best person for the job. Editorials are never "signed." Editorials are never the opinion of one person. Editorials also should never use the pronoun "I." We joke about it in class that sometimes writers for an ed-op piece sound like a Mexican mariachi "I, I, I, I . . ." While this is allowed in columns, it is never allowed in editorials. One of the jobs of the newspaper in the editorial page is to add to the element of debate. Endorsing candidates adds to this. And, just for the record, every major daily newspaper in Texas has endorsed Barack Obama for the March 4 Democratic primary. I wonder how that will impact the election? Check and see whom the staff of The South Texan supports. The paper will be out Tuesday, Feb. 26, and online at tamuk.edu/southtexan that same day. Who are you supporting and, will you vote?

6 comments:

Patrick Desmond said...

I recently watched the debates held at UT Austin, impressed with the civility of the whole event. Despite Hillary's comment to plagarism, both the candidates seemed cool headed and what's more on the same page. Which candidate to endorse? Each agreeing with the other's stance on issues, the main difference really comes down to charisma and oratory skills. Anyway, is it acceptable to have a political cartoon accompany the endorsment?

Long Time Hoggie said...

Yes, it's the American way and we are no longer under King George's thumb.

krystal said...

i'm ok with endorsing candidates but i think the problem becomes; endorsing one candidate is fine but that shouldn't mean bad-mouthing another. i've seen a lot of news stations endorse one and then start to judge others on another level. its important to remember to report news fairly especially while we endorse a candidate.

Long Time Hoggie said...

Krystal, news is one thing. It's objective. Opinions run in the ed-op pages. Everything, however, is done with class, dignity and respect. You never insult any candidate or belittle any one. You point out the attributes and the reasons for endorsing the candidates without belittling them.

Sean said...

Those R/TV and Journalism students who don't "get" the endorsement issue are misunderstanding the basic nature of journalism in America. Freedom of the press is not greatly restricted in this case, and was intended by the founding fathers to create an environment in which journalists can, through their editorial columns, comment for the public good on the political issues concerning their readers.

This freedom of the press (and of conscience) includes the use of editorial cartoons in order to express the general sentiment of a newspaper's staff when it comes to editorial content.

What it comes down to is this: although newspapers are supposed to inform, and serve the reader, at the end of the day they are staffed by humans, all of whom have opinions, and those opinions have the same validity as those of the general readership. We may not agree with what the staff of The South Texan have to say but, to paraphrase Voltaire, we should defend with our lives their right to express that opinion.

Long Time Hoggie said...

Sean, thank you for your comments. We discussed your post in Editorial Writing class. It helped add understanding to the consensus process of editorial writing and also the First Amendment issues involved with the press.