Careful readers may notice something different this year. It's election season, yet there are no official Inlander endorsements here in the Comment section. After 20 years of advocating, as an institution, for candidates or initiatives, I've decided to stop.
It's been a long time in the making, as I have discussed the pros and cons with staff, readers and fellow publishers over the years. Journalists and academics are mixed on endorsements, with more newspapers ending the practice in recent years. But traditionally, daily papers have made endorsements, which is why I included them when we first started publishing in 1993.
When I came home to start a paper, I felt Spokane was in need of a more open mind about the world. Our daily paper, I felt, had a too-conservative, small-minded outlook that held sway for a century. We needed a wake-up call. A monolithic mindset doesn't help anyone; America thrives with a robust marketplace of ideas. I felt the Inlander could, in a small way, balance the scales — perhaps encourage people who thought differently by showing they weren't alone, or even get more progressive people to run for office. Today Spokane is more open-minded, and that is translating into a dynamic, problem-solving, entrepreneurial community.
But while daily papers employ a committee to come up with their endorsements, here it's always been just me. Of course it's been part of my job to dig into local politics, and I meet with lots of candidates — as do our reporters. Still, I've never felt entirely comfortable saying the Inlander is for so-and-so and against that one guy. I have been projecting that onto every member of my staff, and potentially onto everything else we do in the paper, and that's not fair.
I don't want any reader to confuse the opinions in our Comment section with our news stories. Not everybody understands the difference. And I don't want anyone to judge all the great things we do every week because of one endorsement, which, by definition, is a contentious thing.
Voters beware: Times have changed. Too many candidates want to fly under the radar, keeping voters at a distance, only to reemerge briefly with their bags of money to win re-election. More than ever, our news team needs to break through that fortress and deliver coverage that takes us beyond the canned sound bites and into the heart of the issues. We're up to the challenge.
Of course, I will continue to share my thoughts in this Publisher's Note space, under my own byline. Vote wisely! ♦