Caring is also part of the endorsement process

Posted3/18/2021 1:00 AM

Have you awakened in the middle of the night recently, unable to get back to sleep because you don't know which village board or school board candidate to vote for?

Some of our editors have. More than once. And for elections in towns or school districts where they don't live. Others have made endorsement recommendations to fellow members of our editorial board, only to become unsettled by new doubts about a candidate they supported or new confidence in one they didn't.


We've been publishing endorsement editorials in suburban municipal and school board races for more than two weeks. We will complete the process this weekend or, if there are some straggler races, shortly after. We arrive at these decisions as a board, but individual editors are assigned to research specific races and the people doing the research take the assignments seriously.

I have written before about how much raw work editors put into our endorsements -- interviewing candidates in person, studying questionnaires, social media pages and websites, Googling names, attending candidate forums put on by other organizations, reading minutes and watching Zoom recordings of official meetings, and sometimes much more. The effort, I warrant, is one reason you can have faith in our endorsements.

That's not to say we're infallible or that our judgments are the only ones you should consider. But it is to say that our decisions are the product of serious, conscientious effort. And this election, I've been struck by something else, an additional quality you should be aware of. In outlining possible recommendations, our editors don't do all this additional work solely out of a sense of professional duty; they do it because they care about helping communities make good judgments.

"I fret over these a lot," one editor told me during a conversation about a race in which certain candidates were deliberately making it difficult to meet in person and refusing to provide questionnaires or other materials on which to evaluate their candidacies. "How am I supposed to get this right, if they won't even return my emails?"

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A cynic, of course, would simply reply, why are you working so hard to connect with people who are dodging you? They've made your job easier and they're obviously fine with that. Just recommend their opponents and be done with it. But we are not, or at least we try not to be, cynics. "The trouble is," this editor complained, "you just don't know what you might be missing."

Another editor, in one of several conversations with me about a race she was agonizing over, repeated that phrase I hear so often, "I'm just really afraid of getting these wrong," she worried.

Now, in the case of elections, "wrong" and "right" are certainly subjective terms. This whole process is by nature subjective. But calling our endorsements "an opinion," doesn't let us off the hook. The cliché is true that elections have consequences. These summaries of our opinions you read are a board consensus that starts with editors who deeply want the paper to support candidates who will provide constructive, effective management of our towns and schools.

I hope you find that reassuring. I will tell you honestly that for me it is also a great source of pride. Not in me personally, but in all these conscientious, scrupulous, diligent, caring editors I am honored to work with. If they just mailed it in when taking on these assignments, it is possible that no one but me would know. But I see the effort. I see the hand-wringing. I have the conversations, sometimes two, three, four or more times for a single race. I know what people do. I know what they go through in helping us arrive at the choices we make and in helping you make your selections.

And while I can't show you every conversation or let you know every time uneasy feelings disturb an editor's sleep, I want you to know it too.

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