Staff Editorial

2018 endorsement process offers window to candidates, issues

The front of The Gazette building, 500 3rd Ave SE in Cedar Rapids. (Gazette Archives)
The front of The Gazette building, 500 3rd Ave SE in Cedar Rapids. (Gazette Archives)
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The Gazette’s editorial board is meeting with dozens of candidates who are running for county, state and federal offices this fall. A process that began in recent days likely will stretch into October.

We’ll be asking these candidates questions on a wide array of issues important to our readers and our region, as we have for decades. We’ll be getting to know more about the candidates we’re meeting for the first time, and get a chance to check in once again with office holders we’ve come to know. It’s a process of give-and-take with our leaders and would-be leaders that provides valuable insights.

And in the end, with all of that information in hand, we’ll make endorsements, also as we have for decades.

This time around, we’re making a few changes in an effort to make our endorsement process more transparent and engaging for our readers. We’ll be shooting video of all of our endorsement interviews that will be posted on our website. Interviews in high-stakes statewide and congressional contests also will be pushed to social media.

We’re encouraging you to submit questions to help guide these interviews. An interactive tool is available. You may also email questions to editorial@thegazette.com, or post them in response to one of our solicitations on Facebook or Twitter.

Our goal is to provide you with a better understanding of our endorsement process and a clearer sense of how we arrive at our final recommendations. We acknowledge a fair number of our readers dislike endorsements, and some newspapers have stopped weighing in. But we believe it’s a tradition worth sustaining.

Our endorsements have no bearing on our news coverage of campaigns. None. They’re reflective of the views of our editorial board and the editorial board alone. The board includes Zack Kucharski, executive editor, Quinn Pettifer, community outreach and engagement manager, columnists Lynda Waddington and Adam Sullivan, and Insights editor Todd Dorman.

Throughout the year, our editorial board takes positions on many state, local and national issues — water quality, trade policy, taxes, budget decisions and so on. And if we’re going to weigh in on so many decisions made by government at all levels, it seems appropriate to weigh in on who is elected to make those important decisions.

To, for instance, advocate for a stronger response to clean up Iowa’s waterways and then remain on the sidelines in an election to decide who will guide that response makes little sense. After witnessing far-reaching decisions made during the last two years at the Statehouse, remaining silent as the next General Assembly is elected wouldn’t be a service to our readers.

Our interviews seek to find out which candidates’ views are most consistent with our editorial positions, as well as getting a sense of their vision for the future. When the dust settles, the board will gather, likely multiple times, to reach a consensus.

And that, in the end, is what endorsements are, an informed recommendation based on a process we take very seriously. We’re not picking winners and losers. We’re not telling you how to vote. We’re simply sharing our viewpoints on an important decision that promises to affect our community and readers, as we do every week on the Insight page.

Our goal ultimately is to inform. We’ll be explaining our choices and the issues that shape them. Videos will allow you to size up candidates without a filter. And although our picks at the top of the ballot will draw most of the attention, and consternation, it’s our focus on legislative and county races that’s most valuable. They’re the critical contests that often get too little attention.

And our endorsements are one piece of our election content in Insights, standing alongside dozens of candidate guest columns, letters to the editor and other varied viewpoints.

Few, if any, community institutions spend this much time and effort focused on making sense of these critical election decisions, questioning candidates and gaining an understanding of important issues. We’re proud of this effort. We believe its value far outweighs any criticism we’ll take.

We’ve often urged readers to get informed, get involved and make an informed decision. This fall, once again, we’re simply practicing what we preach.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.