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 that same day. Who are you supporting and, will you vote?