Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Now, we have to rely on the Chicago Tribune for candidate endorsements

In a way, I can understand the logic of the Chicago Sun-Times, which on Monday said it was going to stop doing endorsements of candidates for political office.

We won’t have the Sun-Times to tell us who they think we should vote for when it comes to Congress, or the state Legislature, or any of the political posts that are up for grabs in the March 20 primary (and, if the policy stays in place) the Nov. 6 general election.

MY GUESS WOULD be that they’re tired of dealing with the letters (both on paper and through e-mail) they receive from people who are pissed that their preferred candidate did not get the paper’s backing.

They want to think they’re appealing to “all” people by doing some reporting on the campaigns (let’s hope they do) and by publishing the questionnaires they normally send to campaigns that many of the lower-level endorsements are entirely based upon.

Supposedly, we can count on the Chicago Sun-Times to give us a lot of raw data to sort through so we can make up our own minds.

Of course, that presumes the “raw data” is, in and of itself, complete and wasn’t compiled by someone with a bias determined to give us a skewed picture of the political people we get to pick from. In short, that it doesn’t make a mockery of the concept like Fox News’ “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide” slogans do.

BECAUSE I MUST admit I will miss the endorsements, in large part because they gave us a clue as to just how skewed the newspaper’s perspective might truly be.

Reading through the collections of endorsements to find trends might give us a better clue as to what is going through the mindsets of the people gathering the news. In fact, many of those lesser posts get heavily influenced by which little coverage they get.

One not-so-negative piece of reporting for one candidate could result in his getting the endorsement. Would Napoleon Harris, a former professional football player and Beggars Pizza franchise owner (in suburban Harvey and Orland Park) have got the Sun-Times endorsement for his bid to replace state Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, in the Illinois Senate – because the Sun-Times did a lengthy profile about him in their sports section that ran just over a week ago, while the other candidates are likely to receive nothing?

It won’t happen now.

I ALWAYS GOT my kick from reading all the state Legislature endorsements as a whole, and then trying to figure out what kind of General Assembly the paper thinks we ought to have.

Then , we can start evaluating their coverage somewhat to see if “reporting” is trying somehow to back that view, or is somehow trying to report facts. And are they straight facts, or facts that back a certain viewpoint?

To me, the endorsements are more about helping to judge the honesty of a newspaper’s overall report, or letting us know that the newspaper has its own agenda that we ought to keep in mind (such as the Union-Leader of Manchester, N.H., which endorsed Newt Gingrich for president even though that is one place where Mitt Romney truly was the local favorite) whenever we read their dispatches.

It’s less about trying to get people to vote the way you want them to, and more about stating who you are. Which makes me wonder if the signed editorial that appeared in the Sun-Times on Monday ought to be taken as a sign that the Sun-Times would prefer not to do that.

OR MAYBE THEY’RE not eager to deal with the hostile e-mails (inevitably anonymous) that will come from the crackpots who think that everybody who doesn’t believe exactly what they do should be locked away from society.

While I don’t exactly enjoy those people, I figure they come with the territory of expressing an opinion. Because no matter what one thinks, there will always be someone else who completely disagrees with them.

Which is why sometime in a couple of months, most likely the morning of Election Day, I will do my very own “endorsements” on this weblog. Although since this is a one-person operation, what I really will be doing is telling you who I cast my vote for – just as I have done in all the election cycles that have been held since I began publishing this site in late 2007 some 1,503 posts ago.

I view it as a way of letting you know my overall perspective on candidates and how it translates to a perspective on issues. Then, you can take the rest of the commentary published here, and figure it for yourself. I don’t expect anyone to be swayed by who I “endorse.”

I MUST ADMIT one other point. I’m going to miss the idea of an endorsement for the Illinois Second Congressional district Democratic campaign. I was eager to see who the Sun-Times would decide should represent the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs on Capitol Hill.

Would they decide that the “scandals” that have attached themselves to the name “Jesse Jackson, Jr.” (many of which they had a heavy hand in reporting) be so intense that we should send Debbie Halvorson to Congress in his place?

Or would they find a certain verbosity that would allow them to decide that Jesse, Jr. is worth a 10th term in Congress?

It seems we’ll never know.


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