Our View: Opting not to endorse for fairness

Published 2:41 pm Saturday, November 3, 2018

As The Winchester Sun continues to modify, develop and improve our approach to each election season, it is important to note that at this time, this newspaper does not endorse candidates running for office.

Newspapers have for decades used space on their editorial pages to discuss why they support a particular candidate. This practice is perfectly ethical and can actually serve a great purpose for readers and voters.

As newspapers aim to be their community’s record, they also strive to be the voice of the people. In doing so, looking at each candidate’s stance on the issues important to the community from an unbiased and holistic perspective, and then endorsing a particular candidate that newspaper believes can best serve the people is useful.

So long as that endorsement does not spill from the editorial page into the news coverage of the election, we take no issue with other newspapers endorsing candidates.

However, The Sun’s editorial board has decided not to endorse candidates at this time for several reasons.

This practice, while valuable, can also be unintentionally divisive. Endorsing a candidate can create a perceived bias that, particularly in communities like ours, can be hard for newspapers to overcome.

Endorsing one candidate can make another unwilling to work closely with the newspaper as a source during election season, meaning voters won’t get the most useful and accurate information possible. And if an unendorsed candidate is elected, that unwillingness to work with local media could continue, creating issues with transparency and more.

Additionally, endorsing candidates can make readers who do not believe that candidate represents them sufficiently — whether that be because of party, policy or something else — feel alienated.

It is our goal to be as fair and unbiased as possible. At this time, we don’t want to create any perception that we are striving for anything else.

We use our editorial page to take stands on the issues affecting our community, our state and our country. We aim to do so with information from both sides of the issues. In doing so, we may need to discuss our displeasure with or praise a person in office or a candidate. But that does not indicate an endorsement or non-endorsement on our part.

Most importantly, we like to let the people decide for themselves with fair coverage of each candidate through various platforms:  candidacy announcements, forum coverage, Q&As, special sections, paid advertising, etc.

We believe we offer candidates sufficient space to discuss the issues, their policy decisions, their goals for office and why they are the best candidate for office.

Residents don’t need us to tell them for whom they should vote. If we provide all the necessary information, voters can make well-informed decisions.

It is also important to note advertising in our paper is not in any way an endorsement on our behalf. All political advertising is paid for by the candidate, their campaign or some other organization endorsing said candidate. By law, every ad carries a disclaimer noting who paid for the advertisement.

We are happy to allow candidates and others to use the newspaper as a platform to endorse candidates on their own behalf. The Sun does not provide free advertisements to endorse candidates.

Each election cycle we revisit our policies, hoping to improve our approach. Endorsing candidates is something we may revisit in the future.

We look forward to a strong turnout Tuesday, when the most important voice — yours — will be heard.