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Endorsements? Don't look here


   By Tony Ahern
   Publisher
   The Primary ballots are expected to go out this week. But certainly no one will dare put a mark on them until finding out just who the area newspapers have endorsed.
   Right?
   If so, don't be waiting for the Pioneer's blessed slate of who to vote for. We're out of the endorsement business. We're joining the growing number of publications, especially community newspapers, that are refraining from what many view as the righteous, presumptive act of making endorsements.
   The ritual of endorsements was born in the age when papers were very partisan. Most cities of any size had at least two daily newspapers, and most often one was Democratic bent and the other Republican. The "endorsements" were usually just a list of the party line for the respective paper.
   Certainly the nature of endorsements has changed over the years, as the goal of papers has evolved from being political tools to becoming bastions of objectivity. Still, it's rare when a paper's endorsement surprises readers.
   It's that honorable goal of objectivity, of earning the faith of our readership that we will do our best to provide fair, insightful, honest reporting, that is at the core of this particular small-town publisher's decision to refrain from endorsements.
   A newspaper's lifeblood is its objectivity. With the limited personnel resources we're able to afford, we focus on being neutral, to build our all-important reputation of being evenhanded, fair and objective. But if that's our priority on page one and throughout the news section, why would we blow that to pieces on page 4 (the editorial page) by putting the Pioneer's logo on selected candidates by officially endorsing them?
   It makes little sense. The potential damage to a paper's credibility makes endorsements not worth it. Candidates who are not endorsed, their supporters and friends, and many who simply follow community issues, may perceive all subsequent coverage favoring those endorsed, or slanted against those rejected. Too many people already believe papers to be biased. Of course, reporters, headline writers, publishers, we are all human. It's impossible not to like, appreciate or be impressed by some candidates more than others. To correctly do the job of news reporting, we need to recognize that fact and not let it infringe on telling the story fairly and objectively.
   While many community (the name for smaller papers serving smaller, targeted locales) newspapers are phasing out endorsements, the practice continues strong at dailies. And that's OK. The editorial page of a community paper is often the work of one person, a publisher or editor, in our case, the publisher. The endorsements are often the opinion of that one person. Which begs the questions: who died and left him or her the knower of all things relevant?
   Dailies have editorial boards, or a collection of staffers, compiling their editorial page. A daily newspaper's editorials have no byline, and are thus to be taken as the newspaper's opinion. The daily's endorsements, most often, will emerge from the consensus of the said board, presumably after long debate, and don't reflect the opinion of just one person.
   While we at The Pioneer are eschewing endorsements, that's not to say this column and our Viewpoints page won't talk politics, back-pat those deserving and point out those dropping the ball, or even suggest who might make the best officeholder. Under bylined columns, suggestions will be strong and will endeavor to be backed by solid argument. What we won't do is give an anonymous slate of names and measures The Pioneer is backing.
   Our job is to give you, our readers, information to help you make an intelligent choice. We do that by trying to stay issue-oriented when outlining the candidates, and by covering issues the candidates would have to face if elected. Our job is not to tell you who to vote for, or to put The Pioneer's logo behind our personal favorite candidates.