As happens each election season, we receive a lot of comments about our opinion page. People often have conspiracy theories about the letters to the editors and the endorsements. People read in “tones” that don’t exist and generally find ways to be offended and divisive.
It’s understandable to some extent since emotions run high during the season. People may have a great deal of loyalty to their candidates. But the truth is, candidates — at least the good ones — don’t want their supporters spilling bad blood and creating useless controversies. Everyone wants to say they have taken the high road.
To clear some things up about newspaper opinion pieces, let us explain a little about how community newspapers work.
We have absolutely no agenda when it comes to running letters and try to run them as they come in. We publish letters that provide different viewpoints and opinions on topics and issues in our community, and we do our best to be balanced and fair to both sides. We’ve received complaints from people who claim that they sent us letters when we have no record of receiving them. A letter may occasionally get left behind, and we feel bad when that happens. But it’s not part of some grand strategy.
The best way to send letters is straight to email@example.com. We want to hear from you. Letters should be kept to 350 words; we accept longer letters, but it may take longer for them to be published. We ask readers to provide their full name, town of residence and a contact phone number or email. We edit letters for length and clarity and will eliminate libelous or tasteless material.
There’s a very long tradition of newspapers offering endorsements and we feel a responsibility to carry on this heritage. Of all the organizations that offer endorsements, we are the most informed. We have a representative — a reporter — who talks to candidates one-on-one and in depth. We cover local politics and write about the actions of current elected officials. We watch forums. We know the issues.
Endorsements are decided by our editorial board and the decisions aren’t always unanimous. Discussions are lively. The editorial board is made up of the editor Jessie Stensland, former LA Times editor Harry Anderson and a member of the marketing team. Our publisher, Josh O’Connor, who’s also the Everett Herald publisher, reads the editorials closely and approves them. The entire staff looks them over.
A couple of times over the years we have had candidates meet the editorial board for questions. While this is the best process, we didn’t always learn much we didn’t know from our own coverage. This year, with a long list of local candidates, there simply wasn’t time. And some of the candidates we approached weren’t interested in talking at yet another forum.
The endorsements may not be perfect, but they are an honest assessment from informed individuals in your community. We hope that they offer some insight for voters, though it’s ultimately up to them to think for themselves.
We are a small staff that works long hours and covers a big island. We are currently struggling to replace reporter Karina Andrew, who left behind big Taylor-Swift-loving shoes to fill. We prioritize reporting and writing stories and we sometimes might be slow to answer things like emails. Have patience. It’s easy to criticize the media and be uncivil, but small community newspapers are as important as ever. We are watchdogs, community builders and, yes, occasional gadflies.