Seven weeks ago, we offered an explanation of why we make recommendtions in political races.
It's a little soon, but we thought we'd revisit the subject today, since this year's recommendations will start appearing in tomorrow's paper.
The truth is, we run some version of this editorial at least once, maybe twice, every election year.
Still, no one at the Herald will be surprised at the calls we get every day our recommendations run that start out with this phrase: "What gives you the right ...?"
The short answer, of course, is the First Amendment to the Constitution. That amendment also gives you the right to read it.
And it gives you the right not to read it as it gives us the right not to write it.
To borrow a much abused clich here, we realize that we are preaching to the choir.
Anyone who has read this far is no stranger to editorials or the principles of free speech.
We'd like to remind even those readers, though, that newspapers, in their infancy in America, primarily were sources of political rants. Straight news was unheard of in Jefferson's time. We were well into the20th century, when the Depression whittled down the number of newspapers in most towns from maybe a dozen to three, then two and now, in all but the very largest cities, one.
Today's newsrooms are remarkable for their lack of staff political involvement. The pressure for this comes from two directions. No. 1 is the reporters and editors' own sense of professionalism. Most would not work for an organization that told them what political line to toe. No. 2 is those representing the owner of the paper, who would fire anyone caught trying to sneak a politically motivated fabrication into print.
Even the editorial pages of the better papers have evolved. The New York Times and the Washington Post, both putatively liberal, added prominent conservative columnists to their op-ed pages long ago.
The traditionally conservative Chicago Tribune has some of the finest liberal writers on their editorial pages.
In the editorial mentioned in the first paragraph of this piece, we encouraged readers to send us suggestions for questions they'd like to have put to the candidates. Many responded and we did as we promised.
That offer, and the guiding tenant of this editorial page for many years, has been that of pragmatism.
Common sense, if you prefer.
This can be severely tested in local political races, where the difference in candidates may be subtle, yet still we feel obliged to recommend one way or the other.
Usually these editorials will include words something along the lines of: "Voters will be well-served whichever of these two wins."
We don't write those words unless we mean them.
And we have experience with candidates whom we did not support the first time around winning, and then gaining our recommendation the next time. (We also have had the experience of the candidate we recommend so disappointing us that we go against him or her the next time around.)
We are aware that most of our readers lean or are decidedly conservative in their thinking. Recommending a Republican in every political race might be a popular thing for us to do.
We doubt it ever will happen.
We weigh the candidates' interests and style and try to decide, pragmatically, who we think will better serve the people of Eastern Washington and the Tri-Cities.
You are entitled to know what conclusions we draw, even if that conclusion prompts some to write letters or make phone calls starting out, "What gives you the right ...?"
And by the way, we avoid the word "endorsement." It may be a distinction without a difference, but we long ago decided that "recommendation" instead of "endorsement" is what we're all about.