Just say no to editorial boards at newspapers

I had high hopes after leaving the latest meeting with the Dayton Daily News editorial board– thinking that they would be as thoroughly disappointed  as I was with the incumbents’ flat and meaningless answers, and deer-in-the-headlights responses to questions about large campaign donations, and either not endorse, or choose change over the same old, same old.

But, I should have known. Don’t go into meetings like this without a recording for all to hear, so you won’t see your words twisted and minor points sensationalized.

That may be the last invite to appear before the kings and queens of the Cox round table in this town, as their sister paper, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, has now vowed no longer to preach their editorial opinion by endorsing in races. It may just be another cost-cutting move, or it may mark a true change in the way “newspapers” have started to realize their job is to inform, not to take sides:

After listening carefully to readers and thinking deeply about the modern role of a newspaper in elections, the AJC Editorial Board is taking a new approach to election coverage, beginning with this November’s elections.

Going forward, our board will use its unique position to work for readers in pursuing with candidates the issues that are critical to the future of our community. The board will provide readers with clear, concise information about candidates’ positions and records. The AJC will no longer endorse political candidates….

We have heard from readers — and we agree — that you don’t need us to tell you how to vote. What readers tell us they need is information on who the candidates are, what they have done and what they want to do in the new job….

Since the early days, U.S. newspapers have put their stamp of approval — or disapproval — on political candidates during election seasons. It’s a system that goes back to days when cities had many newspapers, each with very clear political agendas….

That world has changed, steadily and more rapidly in recent years. We see our role now as providing you with information to help you make decisions — and not trying to make them for you….

We are using the newspaper voice — through the weekly editorials — to push for progress in our community. That initiative, “Atlanta Forward,” examines key issues facing the Atlanta metro area and the state of Georgia.

via To Our Readers: AJC takes new approach on election  | ajc.com.

For years I’ve railed against the practices of the Montgomery County Democratic Party and its behind-closed-door screening committee– that always asks “If you aren’t endorsed, will you still run?” I’ve said that these people, often appointed by politicians and labor leaders, shouldn’t be the kings in choosing who should and who shouldn’t run- that’s what primaries are for.

Why shouldn’t the same logic apply to newspapers? There is no recording of the editorial board meeting (although there easily could have been)- and the four members, Ellen Belcher, Martin Gottlieb, Scott Eliott and Kevin Reilly are no more qualified to pick winners and losers than the party insiders.

There may be no more damning statement from the last editorial than this:

“That’s partly because a lot of people  who might put together a strong candidacy have left for the suburbs.”

Isn’t that what the Dayton Daily News did when it first built its printing facility in Warren County and then moved its offices closer to Oakwood?

And although the newspaper still claims a wall between its journalistic side and the business side, Cox Ohio, owner of Channel 7, WHIO Radio, K-99 and the Dayton Daily News, will profit from ads run with the dirty money that Nan Whaley has accepted, where quotes from the editorial are almost sure to appear.

I believe in open, honest discussion of the issues. It’s a main part of my candidacy, promising to open the doors of the secret illegal meetings of the Dayton City Commission to you. It’s why I’m the one publishing the campaign finance reports, and providing video of candidates’ nights, and I’m the one allowing you to comment- and have a discussion. It’s my job to represent your interests, and that’s why I invest my time keeping this discussion open.

I tip my hat to the Atlanta Journal Constitution for its transformation.

In Dayton, it’s up to you to either rally against the powers that have been, and help change win this November Third, or, let us continue on the same tired path we’ve been on.

Your thoughts?

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