Editor's note: Election season brings rules, responsibilities
September 30, 2022
With the election season ramping up, it’s time to lay a few ground rules.
First up: endorsements. Defined as “the act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something,” candidate endorsements generally appear in newspapers in two ways: as letters from citizens endorsing candidates, or the newspaper itself announcing its opinion on the best person for the job.
We at the Pine Knot accept one but choose to not practice the other.
Endorsement letters are welcome, with limits. The suggested word limit is 200 words, but we’ll accept up to 300 for those who aren’t simply repeating themselves. If we receive multiple letters about a candidate saying the same thing, we won’t run all of them. We don’t charge for endorsement letters like many other papers, but expect our readers to understand that space is valuable.
Endorsements must abide by the same rules as any other letter to the editor. In particular, reader comments should be respectful, and the newspaper reserves the right to edit for factuality, clarity, concision, grammar, newspaper style, libel and length. Letters must be original works by the author. Expect to prove any allegations you make about political candidates, or the letter won’t be published.
We will not publish any endorsement letters the Friday before the election, because candidates would be unable to rebut prior to Election Day. That means all endorsement letters must arrive by Oct. 24, for publication in the Oct. 28 issue.
Second: Don’t look for any official endorsements from this newspaper.
Done correctly, endorsements can play an important role in a democracy. Too often, however, newspaper owners and publishers fall short of that lofty goal.
The first newspaper I worked at in the 1990s printed endorsements, but the publisher was the only common factor in the interviews. He made the calls on the endorsements; it was not a democratic process. Sadly, that is likely the case for most smaller newspapers, either because of a lack of staff, an excess of ego or both. I’ve also worked at papers where the owners require papers to endorse certain candidates, regardless of local factors, which I also believe is wrong.
Thus, we choose to focus on getting as much information to readers as we can, so you can make up your own minds.
Finally, look for a special Pine Knot News 2022 election guide to be delivered to mailboxes countywide on Friday, Oct. 14, containing candidate information for nearly every contested race. Please wait to read that before voting early, if possible.
In the meantime, do even more research. Read. Go to meetings. Attend candidate forums. Talk to people. But make sure your sources check their facts, and remember that advertisements (and endorsement letters on the opinion pages) are designed and written to influence your opinion in a particular way. Make up your own mind.
Then exercise your most vital right in a democracy — vote.