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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Editorial endorsements: It's OK to for 'em or against 'em

Years ago I asked my then-publisher why a particular elected official was friendly to him but downright nasty to me.

"I told him you write the editorials," he said with a grin.

True enough. He forgot to mention, however, that he had final say on the position, as well as approval over the ultimate wording.

There have been times, especially in writing editorial endorsements, when the "paper’s position" is not mine. That’s OK. It’s like being in a debate club: The editorials need to be persuasive and intelligent, whether or not the writer agrees with the position.

A former Saratogian reporter and editor, who’s been in the Syracuse daily’s newsroom for years in various capacities, this fall became its editorial page editor. As is the case here, the publisher in Syracuse has final say on the endorsements. That makes perfect sense. The person ultimately responsible for the publication should yea or nay the editorial positions. The tipping point may be positions on specific issues, overall political philosophies, and whether the candidate demonstrates energy and leadership.

Writing the editorial endorsements is seldom easy. Challenges include being consistent in reasoning from one race to the next, acknowledging the good intentions of so many candidates, and, frankly, not having conducted enough original research to thoroughly examine the candidates’ strengths, weaknesses and potential.

Why endorse? Not every paper does. I posed the question to my journalism class Tuesday night. One student explained it well, saying readers should be able to turn to the newspaper endorsement for an informed opinion, to help them decide who to vote for — or against.


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