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Sunday, November 27, 2022
Editor’s NotebookEditor’s Notebook: Get ready, candidates – endorsement time is near!

Editor’s Notebook: Get ready, candidates – endorsement time is near!

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My derision when it comes to other newspapers that have eschewed doing political endorsements in recent years is well-known. Whatever reason they give in public, their decision to drop the vetting of political candidates comes down to one of two reasons, or a combination of the two:

  • Concern that by actually voicing an opinion, they’ll alienate a segment of an already declining readership.
  • Either an acknowledgment that its staff is not qualified to evaluate candidates or that somehow it isn’t right for a news organizations to weigh in and tell the voters what to do.

My response? “Poppycock,” which is the word the corporate lawyers request I use in place of the more earthy “horsepucky” (or thereabouts).

Of what remains of the local print press corps[e], one has to give credit to the Falls Church News-Press, which is one of the few that keeps up a tradition both of regular editorials and, around election time, endorsements of candidates and ballot issues. The two editorial pages (ours and theirs) are not exactly looking at the world through the same lens, but at least we’re both looking at it.

The Alexandria Times also has editorials, although I’m not particularly sure about endorsements. Not so much for others; even the once-mighty Washington Post, whose endorsements could swing local races, is largely out of the business of vetting candidates for local office except for sporadic and sometimes quixotic picks.

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Endorsement season in Sun Gazette-land starts next week. Not going to tell you the order in which they’ll be coming out, but they’ll be coming out. And as always, even those candidates who win an endorsement should not expect to come away unscathed. We lead with our elbows; there have been endorsements in which we have used the first 10 paragraphs to explain a candidate’s flaws, then used the 11th to say he or she is still better than the opposition and therefore deserves support.

Do newspaper endorsements make any difference in the final outcome of races? In very rare occasions, yes, but mostly, no. That is beside the point. It would seem to be one job of the print press to try and make some sense in an increasingly senseless world. Endorsements can help that. Nobody has to agree with them – heck, sometimes I vote differently than the endorsements I help to craft – but it is important they are there, no matter what others in our industry may believe.

CIRCLING BACK WITH ONE MORE ENDORSEMENT STORY: Back when Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was running as the Democratic nominee for Maryland governor, a much younger version of me happened to be doing double duty as editor of the Journal Newspapers (R.I.P.), which at the time ringed the suburbs in Virginia and Maryland.

At that very time, the Maryland news staff of the Journal was essentially in a state of open rebellion with management (something I had been brought in try and wrangle under control, among other duties). You never quite knew what those folks would do to poke at and try to provoke the ownership.

One day I picked up the Montgomery County edition hot off the presses to find that, without clearing it with anyone as they were supposed to, some the news staff of that paper had taken it upon themselves to write up an endorsement of Townsend for governor, carrying the imprimatur of the company itself. And I wondered how I was going to tell my boss, not exactly an aficionado of Democratic politicians, what they’d done.

But he’d learned of it before I did, and fortunately reacted more in humor than in anger. (Indeed, there was no need for him to get angry; layoffs already in the works soon cleared out most of the querulous Montgomery County news staff. It’s the golden rule of corporate humor: He who has the gold invariably has the last laugh.)

My boss’s exact response, in a Southern twang, remains burnished in my memory. “Tell the staff that if they’re going to endorse a Kennedy, at least endorse a Kennedy who’s gonna WIN,” he chortled.

(Those political instincts were correct; Townsend indeed went down to defeat.)

  • Scott McCaffrey
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