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The Sun editorial: Why The Sun does not endorse political candidates

HAMBURG — Unless you have gone into hibernation early or have been hiding under a rock, you know that it is election season.

The signs scattered in front of local homes and businesses, and the political calls coming in at all hours, mean that voting time is upon us.

The Sun has done its best to present unbiased election coverage, this season. We have opened our pages up to all local candidates who are going to appear on the ballot, allowing them to utilize our publication for political advertising, letters to the editor, biographies and head shots.

We have informed our reading public about the people for whom they will be asked to vote. We have tried our best to explain the various (six, this season) proposals that will join the individual candidates on the ballots and have done everything that we could to prepare the residents of our communities for the Nov. 5 election.

What we have not done is endorse specific candidates or political parties.

I have already been asked, several times, whom The Sun has endorsed. I should not be surprised by this question. Many major publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times, routinely lend their weight to candidates, from the president of the United States to the local individuals who are running for the school board.

I feel strongly that this type of credence given by newspapers is a misfire.

The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican candidate for president since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. While the paper describes its contents as “high-quality journalism,” and rightly so, in many cases, its open tendency to lean to the left affects how I, for one, read articles that it publishes, especially if they are political in nature.

I have used this editorial space to explain this publication’s viewpoint about unbiased journalism, several times. We at The Sun value our reputation and strive to present information as accurately as possible, free of our personal opinions.

I feel very strongly that publicly check-marking specific political candidates is completely in opposition to everything newspapers claim to stand for.

A few years ago, the American Journalism Review reported that newspaper endorsements have very little effect on readers’ voting records. That makes sense; a Democratic voter would hardly cast a vote for a Republican candidate just because the local newspaper said so.

I do not pretend to believe that, if The Sun encouraged its readers to turn out and vote for Candidate X, that individual would win in a landslide. It is more about the principle of the thing.

The AJR pointed to USA Today and The Wall Street Journal as two notable publications that do not endorse candidates. “The founder of the first thinks endorsements are demeaning to readers,” the AJR explained, “and the second views principles as more important than politicians.”

Brian Gallagher, the editorial page editor for USA Today, said that, from his viewpoint, even if his publication wanted to endorse candidates, its editorial staff members are so politically diverse, he would be hard-pressed to get them to agree on one person.

Allen Neuharth, the creator of USA Today, said that political coverage by newspapers that endorse candidates “becomes suspect in the eyes of readers.”

I could not agree more.

For instance, if The Sun cast its overarching support for the Republican candidate for village mayor, any articles we then published about that individual’s opposition would be tainted, in our readers’ eyes, because of our support for the other side.

I have never publicly expressed my political affiliation, nor do I intend to. I want our readers to be able to trust us as an unbiased news source, not wonder if we are telling the truth about the candidates and political decisions in our area.

Our paper is not represented by just one individual. From the publisher, to the reporters, to the salespeople, to the delivery men and women, this paper is made up of a myriad of individuals with a variety of political backgrounds and beliefs.

Just as Gallagher said about USA Today, focusing our paper’s political energies onto one candidate would not adequately represent the individual thoughts and feelings behind our organization.

The Sun staff members collectively send best wishes to all of the men and women who will be waiting, with bated breath, for the polling results on Nov. 5. We will do our duty as U.S. citizens and vote in this election, but as to the specific votes we cast? That is for us alone to know.

Erie County polling locations will be open from 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
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