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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.

Monday, November 5, 2012

An inside look at election endorsements and more

A bunch of us will be in The Saratogian newsroom and a handful will be out in the field Tuesday night, hoping for results in time for our 11:45 p.m. press deadline.
I expect there will be a number of close races in spread-out districts that may indeed be “too close to call.” By 11 p.m., my worry is not who won, but whether we’ll be able to get it in print. We’ll have a couple of front pages mocked up for the various options.
But that’s the beauty of the Internet. Staffers will stick around to get results online.  
Frankly, I’m ready for the elections to be over.
The Saratogian had more than 16 hours of election-related in-person sessions — hour-long chats with Republican and Democratic candidates for the 112th and 113th Assembly districts, the 43rd and 49th Senate districts, and the 20th and 21st congressional districts, as well as representatives of Saratoga Citizen and Saratoga Success, the respective proponents and opponents of the city government change on the ballot.
All of these were informal discussions, all “on the record” – meaning everything said could be used for publication. Also, we videotaped competing candidates answering the same questions in the same order. Those videos can be seen The Saratogian website.  
I participated in all of those sessions; Assistant Managing Editor Betsy DeMars missed only one. The reporter covering the specific election sat in, too.
These sessions were useful for our news coverage and in making editorial endorsements.
For the endorsements, we also took into account coverage of the races, voter forums, and input and materials provided by the candidates and their campaigns.
Afterward all the personal discussions were done, we sat down with Publisher Mike O’Sullivan and reached a consensus about whom to endorse. Most were not unanimous decisions. I am happy to say that we have a mix of views on our makeshift editorial board. As the editorial writer, I try to make a convincing case for the candidate, regardless of how I intend to vote. Either way, sometimes it is a challenge to do justice to the candidates and their campaigns.
O’Sullivan was comfortable, as I was, with not endorsing in the presidential race, but rather to focus on our niche as the local paper and stick with the congressional and state legislative races for the districts representing most of our readers.
I think a newspaper’s editorial page should be a place where residents can turn for an informed opinion about candidates and issues, whether or not you agree with the conclusions. It’s a responsibility I do not take lightly.
I took special pains with the editorial against the proposed change in city government. We didn’t decide on the position until the day before it went to press. I read the entire proposal carefully, consulted with people in and out of the active circles for and against, read many thoughtful comments both for and against, and applied my firsthand experience and knowledge of how City Hall works – or should work. I had to shrug and laugh at an online comment saying the paper’s editorial position was based on where its revenue comes from. That has never come up, and it just plain isn’t the case.
As for the people who get involved in elections and campaigns: I have a lot of respect for people who invest their time and energy, and sometimes their money, for a cause or a candidate they believe in. The same goes for most of the people I’ve met who run for office. Public service is an honorable endeavor.
As for news coverage, every year I wish we could have done more with the elections that we did. If only our four reporters had nothing else to write about. Still, I think our reporters did a good job with the legislative races letting readers know who’s running and what they stand for.
Speaking of candidates and position, we should all thank the Saratoga Springs League of Women Voters for their leadership in setting up voter forums and putting together the written guide that formed the basis of The Saratogian’s special section on Sunday.
I also want to acknowledge Editors Betsy DeMars and Paul Tackett, who added several hours to their already long workweeks to get the Voter Guide pages together for The Saratogian’s print edition.
Besides telling you about the candidates, we also tried to let you know about the election disticts, all of which have been redrawn. Most Saratogian readers are no longer part of the district of the congressman and assemblyman who represents them at the moment.
Check out our voter guide, the league’s voter information, and the state and county Board of Elections websites if you’re not sure what district you’re in.
And then get out and vote.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Any chance that after the election someone in your organization could report on the Consent Order signed by the City DPW commissioner and why we in the public have not been advised of what is going on and why?

Particularly interested in why this was not - as required by the Charter - brought to the City Council for review, vote and authorization of the mayor to enter into the agreement.

Since this order deals with a admitted violation of State Health Department regulations you would think that the public would want to know.


November 6, 2012 at 3:24 PM 

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