The Herald Bulletin

December 3, 2012

Scott Underwood: Newspaper’s endorsements show balance

By Scott Underwood
The Herald Bulletin

— Back just before the election, The Herald Bulletin’s editorial board was the target of scathing criticism after it endorsed Democrats for the six highest positions on the ballot in Madison County and Democrats for nine of 13 contested seats overall.

In fact, I’m aware of at least a half dozen readers who canceled their subscriptions in the aftermath of our endorsements. A couple of those were upset, specifically, with our endorsement of President Barack Obama. The other disgruntled subscription-holders were enraged by our backing of so many Democrats.

(I’m still waiting for the day when a person calls to complain that we’ve endorsed too many from their party!)

It’s understandable that some, particularly those leaning to the right, would object to an imbalance of endorsements. One conservative (a very nice man, I might add) observed that The Herald Bulletin avoided noting the party of candidates in our endorsements. This, he surmised, was an effort to keep the imbalance under wraps.

I explained to him that the editorial board does not make a habit of reciting candidates’ parties of affiliation in endorsements because the party has little to do with the decision to endorse. We promote the idea of nonpartisanship in our endorsements by focusing on qualifications, integrity, record of service and campaign platforms.

Nonetheless, the board is certainly conscious of how many candidates from each party we’ve endorsed. But we really don’t let that sway the endorsements, unless we feel that a governing body (like a council) would benefit from having a better balance of party affiliations.

After our endorsements in 2011, I went back through our archives to gauge The Herald Bulletin’s endorsement records since 2007 (the first election here after my arrival as editor) in general elections. I wrote a column a year ago, reciting those figures. I’ll update the figures here by adding the endorsements from November’s election (school board elections, where candidates are not party affiliated, are not included in this tally):

As you can see, across the course of these five elections, we have endorsed nearly an equal number of Republican and Democratic candidates. This is by happenstance in the sense that the editorial board, again, rarely takes party affiliation into account when determining endorsements. But I think the numbers speak to the fact that the board endorses candidates based on their individual merits and does not adhere to a party line.

By the way, in November’s election, seven of the 13 candidates we endorsed lost. And that’s OK with us; our endorsements aren’t predictions. We simply want to give readers a thoughtful analysis of the candidates to consider before going to the polls.

It’s up to the voters, then, to pick the best men and women for office. That’s what we believe in — the democratic process.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 640-4845.