Ask the Editor: What's behind political endorsements?

June 14, 2010 

Q. Why does The Tribune publish The Tribune's voting recommendations -- because you can? Is The Tribune a lobby group? Are the voting recommendations the opinion of all your employees? Is it majority rules there at The Tribune or is it simply a dictatorship … How does The Tribune determine its voting recommendations? Does purchased ad space affect your recommendations?

-- Tom Lorish, Los Osos

A. This is certainly a timely question! The list of voting recommendations that we published a week ago on our Opinion page was a summary of the views of The Tribune’s Editorial Board, which is composed of Publisher Bruce Ray, Opinion Editor Stephanie Finucane and me.

During every election season, the Editorial Board meets with all candidates for major local races and asks them a series of questions; a few focus on leadership, but most deal with specific local issues candidates would face if elected. We also review candidates’ voting records and resumes, looking for previous leadership and political experience – whether they’ve served on a planning commission or nonprofit board, for example. We use this knowledge to make endorsements.

Much like we share our opinions on local issues through editorials, we share our opinions on which candidates we believe will best forge policies and carry out programs that will benefit our communities.

We hope these endorsements are instructive, especially to readers who lack the time to research candidates and issues on their own. But we certainly don’t expect all readers to agree.

We are not a lobbying group. It is a common practice for newspapers to make political endorsements.

Last: We never promise an endorsement in exchange for advertising, just as we never promise to publish a news item – or run it sooner or more prominently – in exchange for advertising. All endorsement decisions are made solely by the Editorial Board, and all news coverage decisions are made solely by the newsroom -- independent of whether a company or individual chooses to advertise with The Tribune. (The newsroom isn’t even aware of the political ads being purchased.) We maintain that separation to ensure the independence and integrity of our news report. Looking ahead, we’ll continue to offer election coverage of top local, regional and state races as candidates head toward the November election. And we will once again offer our endorsements for readers to consider.

Q. I truly enjoyed (a recent) dust storm photo in Sunday's weather column by PG&E’s John Lindsey. My first thought when I saw it was, “Wow, they must have had a big Valley Fever outbreak,” which I was convinced you would mention (and did!). Little did I know that it would extend so far north. Thanks for always educating me with your great information.

-- Barbara Schwenoha

Q. I enjoy your (John Lindsey’s) extended weather articles enormously. Having recently moved back to the Central Coast to Morro Bay, I have become informed and am less mystified by the weather through your very well-written column. Thank you.

-- Gina Bevilacqua

A. Weather columnist John Lindsey shared both your letters with us. We too are impressed with his insight and extensive knowledge of regional weather patterns – as well as his ability to share that insight in clear, understandable prose. Many readers have told us how much they enjoy his Sunday column, which appears on our Local section front.

Do you have a question about the newspaper, our Web site or our coverage? If so, please write me c/o The Tribune, P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA, 93406-0112, or e-mail me at sduerr@thetribunenews.com.

The Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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