News

What a Week: Why no endorsements

You may have noticed our editorial board has not issued endorsements ahead of this primary election. I know some candidates have certainly noticed.

Since I've explained the factors to some, I figured it's only fair to share with our readers -- because, whether I always like this aspect of my job or not, many voters do consider our recommendations when casting their ballots, particularly in the less-publicized local contests.

Jeremy Walsh, editor.

No, there aren't any political motivations for our decision this spring. The short answer: No time.

Endorsements are a monumental task for our editorial board, which is led by myself and publisher Gina Channell Wilcox. We'll pull in Livermore Vine editor Cierra Bailey, editor emeritus Jeb Bing and even company president Bill Johnson for other insights as needed too.

Our board will reach consensus on an election recommendation -- same for any editorial stance -- and then Gina or I will trade off serving as lead author for the endorsement articles.

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(And just so it's said, I'm not speaking for Gina or anyone else on our editorial board or staff. This is my perspective on our process, which to me should go without saying in my column space, but hey, might as well be crystal clear.)

For endorsements, our editorial board will either hold individual interviews with each candidate, or in cases where we moderate election forums, we'll rely on their responses and performances in our public debates.

For the June 7 primary, with Alameda County and Zone 7 offices alone, that would've meant 17 interviews. Then factor in our Contra Costa County coverage areas, plus state and federal legislative seats representing the Tri-Valley.

It proved unattainable this spring, especially because we've been in the midst of a demanding staffing crunch that made it prohibitive for Gina and I to conduct interviews and necessary research to make informed endorsements.

Not to unnecessarily throw a competitor under the bus, but I was struck by watching a fellow local newspaper just weeks ago have to retract an endorsement because they didn't do enough research into a candidate's public record before rushing out their initial editorial. Stunning.

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That exchange re-enforced my mindset for 2022: Do it right, or don't do it all.

This was a difficult decision that disappoints me, pains me, but it was really the only option for us.

Which is funny, considering where I stood on this issue in college and at the outset of my career.

As a young adult, I distanced myself from election positions -- and frankly any serious stance -- in the name of ethics. I thought a true journalist couldn't have and shouldn't share opinions to ensure objectivity. Boy was I misguided.

The perspective I would develop, after years of internal reflection and watching local and national issues unfold, is that it's the objectivity of the news article and of the coverage approach itself that matter most.

If judges, doctors, police officers, educators and every other profession more important (and more well-compensated) can be tasked with doing their job fairly while still holding personal views, then certainly the same can be expected of a news editor or reporter.

A good, ethical journalist can produce objective work regardless of their feelings. And of course, those feelings are present, whether we acknowledge them or suppress them. That's the reality.

Oh, and in terms of confronting my own struggle, it helped very much that my promotion to editor in 2017 came with the requirement to sit on the editorial board and write editorial comments.

I've come to respect, and even enjoy, the process of writing editorials -- though they may be a chore sometimes, not unlike this column.

With endorsement editorials, I approach the deliberations from this question: What election outcome would best serve the community and represent the ideals of a majority of its constituents? And remember, our board must reach consensus. Decisions can be far from easy.

And for me, it's not necessarily just "who would I vote for?" We must factor in our readers' views as well.

But since we're not doing endorsements this spring, my mindset now turns inward as I look at my Contra Costa County ballot at home. Which candidates will strive to represent and achieve my priorities?

Who will work to make sure my son can go to elementary school without fear of being gunned down in class?

After all of these years of posturing, who will prioritize strengthening our water reliability now and into the future? What about wildfire solutions, finally? Women's health rights? Stand up to corporate greed? Smarter government spending? Election protections? Affordable housing (as in truly affordable)? Criminal justice? Quality education?

The list goes on for me; I'm sure it does for you as well.

I'll be ready to turn in my ballot on June 7, and then again Nov. 8. Here's to hoping you're inspired to vote too.

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.

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Jeremy Walsh
 
Jeremy Walsh, a Benicia native and American University alum, joined Embarcadero Media in November 2013. After serving as associate editor for the Pleasanton Weekly and DanvilleSanRamon.com, he was promoted to editor of the East Bay Division in February 2017. Read more >>

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What a Week: Why no endorsements

by / Danville San Ramon

Uploaded: Fri, May 27, 2022, 12:52 am

You may have noticed our editorial board has not issued endorsements ahead of this primary election. I know some candidates have certainly noticed.

Since I've explained the factors to some, I figured it's only fair to share with our readers -- because, whether I always like this aspect of my job or not, many voters do consider our recommendations when casting their ballots, particularly in the less-publicized local contests.

No, there aren't any political motivations for our decision this spring. The short answer: No time.

Endorsements are a monumental task for our editorial board, which is led by myself and publisher Gina Channell Wilcox. We'll pull in Livermore Vine editor Cierra Bailey, editor emeritus Jeb Bing and even company president Bill Johnson for other insights as needed too.

Our board will reach consensus on an election recommendation -- same for any editorial stance -- and then Gina or I will trade off serving as lead author for the endorsement articles.

(And just so it's said, I'm not speaking for Gina or anyone else on our editorial board or staff. This is my perspective on our process, which to me should go without saying in my column space, but hey, might as well be crystal clear.)

For endorsements, our editorial board will either hold individual interviews with each candidate, or in cases where we moderate election forums, we'll rely on their responses and performances in our public debates.

For the June 7 primary, with Alameda County and Zone 7 offices alone, that would've meant 17 interviews. Then factor in our Contra Costa County coverage areas, plus state and federal legislative seats representing the Tri-Valley.

It proved unattainable this spring, especially because we've been in the midst of a demanding staffing crunch that made it prohibitive for Gina and I to conduct interviews and necessary research to make informed endorsements.

Not to unnecessarily throw a competitor under the bus, but I was struck by watching a fellow local newspaper just weeks ago have to retract an endorsement because they didn't do enough research into a candidate's public record before rushing out their initial editorial. Stunning.

That exchange re-enforced my mindset for 2022: Do it right, or don't do it all.

This was a difficult decision that disappoints me, pains me, but it was really the only option for us.

Which is funny, considering where I stood on this issue in college and at the outset of my career.

As a young adult, I distanced myself from election positions -- and frankly any serious stance -- in the name of ethics. I thought a true journalist couldn't have and shouldn't share opinions to ensure objectivity. Boy was I misguided.

The perspective I would develop, after years of internal reflection and watching local and national issues unfold, is that it's the objectivity of the news article and of the coverage approach itself that matter most.

If judges, doctors, police officers, educators and every other profession more important (and more well-compensated) can be tasked with doing their job fairly while still holding personal views, then certainly the same can be expected of a news editor or reporter.

A good, ethical journalist can produce objective work regardless of their feelings. And of course, those feelings are present, whether we acknowledge them or suppress them. That's the reality.

Oh, and in terms of confronting my own struggle, it helped very much that my promotion to editor in 2017 came with the requirement to sit on the editorial board and write editorial comments.

I've come to respect, and even enjoy, the process of writing editorials -- though they may be a chore sometimes, not unlike this column.

With endorsement editorials, I approach the deliberations from this question: What election outcome would best serve the community and represent the ideals of a majority of its constituents? And remember, our board must reach consensus. Decisions can be far from easy.

And for me, it's not necessarily just "who would I vote for?" We must factor in our readers' views as well.

But since we're not doing endorsements this spring, my mindset now turns inward as I look at my Contra Costa County ballot at home. Which candidates will strive to represent and achieve my priorities?

Who will work to make sure my son can go to elementary school without fear of being gunned down in class?

After all of these years of posturing, who will prioritize strengthening our water reliability now and into the future? What about wildfire solutions, finally? Women's health rights? Stand up to corporate greed? Smarter government spending? Election protections? Affordable housing (as in truly affordable)? Criminal justice? Quality education?

The list goes on for me; I'm sure it does for you as well.

I'll be ready to turn in my ballot on June 7, and then again Nov. 8. Here's to hoping you're inspired to vote too.

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.

Comments

Jennifer
Registered user
Danville
on May 27, 2022 at 10:14 am
Jennifer, Danville
Registered user
on May 27, 2022 at 10:14 am

I like it when there is no endorsement. Why? I don't need to know where others stand politically, nor do I need someone telling me how to vote.


D
Registered user
Danville
on May 27, 2022 at 3:28 pm
D, Danville
Registered user
on May 27, 2022 at 3:28 pm

It is amusing that you think voters in the Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton area are influenced by your "editorial board"'s recommendation on voting. Recent studies have shown that over 92% of "journalists" are registered Democrats and hardly the neutral, objective entity of days past. Voters in our local town and surrounding cities tend to be highly educated, intelligent,professional individuals,who support family values and law and order, and who do not need "journalists" help in voting. If undecided on an issue, we may look to the local Chamber of Commerce for a recommendation, or who our Mayor and local Towncouncil members are endorsing, but getting advice on an election from a "journalist" is no different than simply following the Democratic parties endorsed candidate.


Birkman Tillary
Registered user
Walnut Creek
on May 28, 2022 at 9:31 am
Birkman Tillary, Walnut Creek
Registered user
on May 28, 2022 at 9:31 am

I agree with D on his views; especially his point about the influence of “editorial boards.”

As for my view, this article produced by Walsh appears to be nothing more than self-promotion; especially the part about how the “board” must reach a consensus. I dare say that sounds to me like everybody “board” member better vote the same, or else.

On the other hand, if 92% of journalists are registered Democrats, as D pointed out, the point of reaching consensus then is moot.

Unfortunately, people choose sides based upon politics, rather than the facts. Journalism appears to have traveled the same route.

Instead of reaching a consensus, Jeremy, why don’t you, Gina, and the rest of your troop show how voted individually?

I rest my case.



Gina M Channell, Publisher
Registered user
Danville
on May 28, 2022 at 11:27 am
Gina M Channell, Publisher, Danville
Registered user
on May 28, 2022 at 11:27 am

@Birkman Tillary
Like every other American citizen, we have the right to keep our votes private.

As to your stat on journalists registered as Democrats, I would like to know who is defining themselves as "journalists." I was taught -- and my mentors demonstrated -- that real professional journalists do nothing that will imply bias. I have never registered as a D, R, I or anything, I don't put campaign signs in my yard, I don't donate to political campaigns (nor does my husband) and I don't publicly take a stance on candidates or ballot measures individually, only as part of the editorial board.

I admit I am an old-school journalist, trained at a large daily in Chicago (a city where the motto is "vote early and often" -- haha), and readers would take any opportunity to discredit our endorsements if we didn't endorse their candidate or agree with their stance on a ballot measure.

I've been called a d*** liberal and I've been called a d*** conservative, a d*** Republican and a d*** Democrat (among other things), so I guess I'm doing a good job of not letting bias show.

The members of our editorial board come from very diverse backgrounds, age groups, etc., and we have had some spirited debates on candidates and measures to endorse.

You might not value our endorsements, but the reason Jeremy wrote this column is because candidates know many others do and expressed disappointment when we told them we were not doing interviews or endorsements for the primary.

Thank you for reading.


Birkman Tillary
Registered user
Walnut Creek
on May 28, 2022 at 10:30 pm
Birkman Tillary, Walnut Creek
Registered user
on May 28, 2022 at 10:30 pm

@ Gina,

Just to get some unpleasantness out of the way, I never stated 92% of journalists were registered Democrats. I said IF, not IS. Take a stroll up the commenter block and you will find that the commenter “D” said that, not me.

Now, onto the current state of affairs regarding journalism, and how the public views your trade. You can’t deny, Gina, that your profession has taken a hit, a huge hit in the ratings game. Politics has taken over integrity. Bias shown by CNN, FOX, and MSNBC is at an all time high. Factual reporting has taken a back seat to fake news. So, what happened? How did we get here? You tell me?

Diverse backgrounds of journalists regarding age, ethnicity, sex, etc., mean nothing if they can’t keep politics out of honest reporting. I could cite one incident after another where political bias was shown; especially over the last two years.

I use to put journalists right up there with doctors, cops, pilots,lawyers, etc. Not anymore. A once proud profession has descended into nothing more than tribalism.

Thank you for sharing your apparent frustration with name callers and the like. Not much fun. And I’m sure there are journalists out there with integrity. However, until your profession cleans house, people will continue to doubt what they hear. I will day though, Chris Cuomo was a good start!


Gina M Channell, Publisher
Registered user
Danville
on May 28, 2022 at 11:45 pm
Gina M Channell, Publisher, Danville
Registered user
on May 28, 2022 at 11:45 pm

@Birkman Tillary, I agree, and I will tell you how I think we got here.

The state of news media is far from what it should be. Personally I think cable news and the "confirmation bias" era was the beginning of the end.

When I asked about who was considered "journalists," I asked because the profession of journalism has become bastardized, with a lack of news literacy and critical thinking. People were conditioned to trust journalists -- and then hucksters who had their own agendas started peddling opinion as news and, people conditioned to trust "the news," fell hook, line and sinker.

Cable news fed the masses that didn't want to hear an opinion that differed from their own, which demolished the principles of critical thinking. For some, when confronted with something that goes against their belief of how the world works, they refuse it and, basically, shout it down.
To be able to make an educated decision or statement, one must be able to consider all facts, construe a logical conclusion and (this is key) be able to defend it in a logical manner.

This does not happen and has not happened for many years. Defense of a position is emotional, not logical.

Many people cling to political parties, divisive ideology and confirmation bias.

For old-school journalists like me & Jeremy who try to do the right thing, the organizations peddling opinion as news (and you know local examples of this), and organizations that would like to do the right thing but don't have the experienced staff to do it (and you know local examples of this), it is beyond frustrating.

We know we are being lumped in with these organizations and I have said publicly they are doing professional news organizations like ours severe damage.

Part of the problem is journalists like us get frustrated, throw up our hands and go to the "dark side" -- public relations. Did you know there is an 8 to 1 ratio of PR people to journalists? Think about that.



Birkman Tillary
Registered user
Walnut Creek
on May 29, 2022 at 8:49 am
Birkman Tillary, Walnut Creek
Registered user
on May 29, 2022 at 8:49 am

@ Gina

Interesting perspective. I do agree with you on the many points you made. Hopefully, at some point, the pendulum will swing back the other way, and faith in responsible journalism will be restored.


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