Pardon us if we don't tell you how to vote

You may have noticed the absence of local candidate endorsements by our newspaper during the past couple years.This is by design, and it warrants explanation.

Endorsements are a decades-old practice for newspapers of all sizes throughout the nation. Endorsements had their heyday roughly a century ago when many newspapers were aligned with one political party and would print the “party line” to remind their readers whom to vote for on election day.

Thankfully, endorsements evolved into a more cerebral practice.

But for various reasons, primarily thanks to the digital information era we live in, the practice of endorsements no longer has the same utility for readers it once did. Many newspapers, especially community newspapers, are drawing away from doing them, in local races especially. We believe it’s most wise, for various reasons, to join that movement.

Just a few decades ago, information was substantially more limited than today. When it came to politics and elections, there were no candidate websites complete with position papers, supporter lists and other propaganda. Social media sites didn't bombard us with issue stances, and inside looks at candidates' lives and personalities.

Newspapers used to truly have unique access, knowledge and observational opportunities that simply were not available to even the most engaged voter.

Along with a voter's pamphlet, newspapers provided a vital public service by compiling that collective data and making informed election recommendations. With the information pie so diverse and widespread today, that service is no longer in demand.

Also, as our nation and communities become evermore divided between conservatives and liberals, readers often assume that individual endorsements reflect some deep-seated partisan bias on our part. If we endorse a more conservative candidate, we hear from liberal-minded readers who are absolutely convinced we are advancing a right-wing agenda. When we endorse a more progressive candidate, conservative-leaning readers blast us for being part of the liberal mainstream media.

If we endorsed a candidate, say either judge candidate Ken Falhgren or Seth Crawford, we'd be facing a future with either someone we endorsed in office and be suspected of favortism with our coverage once their judgeship began, or with covering someone we did not endorse, thus being suspected of being overly critical once their term began.

Being objective when it comes to government coverage is a local newspaper’s cornerstone. Presenting endorsements can threaten that cornerstone, even if only in perception.

Our goal as your community newspaper is to be helpful, not high-handed. To shed light, not heat. And to generate consensus, not conflict, in our communities. And why would any business wish to antagonize roughly half of its customers (in our case, our readers) by endorsing a candidate that, either way, roughly half don't support? If there was a giant gulf between candidates, we wouldn't have a problem in pointing that out on the editorial page. There is no such gulf anywhere among local candidates on this current ballot. Each are individuals with unique talents and political styles, but all have proven themselves to be capable public servants.

So pardon us if we suggest that only you do vote, and vote intelligently, and not specifically who to vote for.