Good campaign coverage is our responsibility

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 26, 2000

Politics isn’t for the faint-hearted. Neither is journalism. Both require a big heart and thick skin, along with a desire to find what’s true, what’s honest and what’s right. That’s easier than it sounds … particularly when you’re a politician — or a journalist — in a community which you care about deeply.

But with both those roles comes an added responsibility.

In the case of politicians, that responsibility is to be accountable to the voters and the public; to serve with integrity and honesty; and to serve with the best interests of the taxpayers and voters in mind.

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In the case of a journalist, that responsibility is both to be accountable to the community and to help hold the community’s leaders and residents accountable; to publish with integrity and honesty; and to publish with the best interests of the community — the readers — in mind.

With that responsibility in mind, the editorial board of The Democrat decided this year to take a more active approach to covering the election process. Specifically, we approached the process much like a sporting event — an event whose build up is as much of a story as the game itself and an event whose players and strategies are as much a story as the final touchdown.

With that approach, we made a renewed commitment to giving our readers the information they need to make the most informed choices on election day. That means asking candidates to explain their strengths and weaknesses, to define and explain their goals, to offer information on just how they plan to make those goals a reality — and to hold them accountable on all the answers.

When an individual announces his or her candidacy for an elected office, he offers his resume for public scrutiny. It’s part of the process.

Voters want — and need — to know about the people they are electing to run their city, their county, their state and their country. The members of our reader advisory group drove that point home last month, as they repeatedly asked for as much information as possible on the candidates — from their thoughts on how best to spend tax dollars to their qualifications for holding public office. And, along with that, the advisory group members said they wanted more information about the duties and responsibilities of each office — the information that would let them match the person they believe is the best qualified with each office.

Ultimately, that’s all we expect to do as a newspaper — give each of you the information you need to make your own choices.

And, yes, we’ll go through that matching process, too, sharing our decisions in the forms of an endorsement for each office.

But we’re far from making endorsements and judgments on the best candidate for any office in the upcoming city election. We’re simply in the information gathering stage … and we have an obligation to ask the questions that readers would ask if given the opportunity to meet face-to-face, and often, with each candidate.

And if any candidate is uncomfortable discussing that information — whether it is couched in terms of successes or mistakes — then voters should raise a caution flag. Because often the question itself is much less important than the way the candidate chooses to react — and answer or not answer — the question.

The process may be a bit uncomfortable, but no one ever said politics or journalism is easy.

It’s a responsibility.

And pursuing that responsibility is what you should expect us to do.

Stacy Graning is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 446-5172 ext. 239 or via e-mail at