Sunday, October 21, 2012
Christina Nuckols: Here's our take on the candidates
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Christina Nuckols grew up in the Shenandoah Valley and worked at several newspapers in western Virginia, including The Roanoke Times, before moving to Richmond to cover state government and politics. After 14 years at the state Capitol, she returned to Roanoke in 2011 to become the editorial page editor. christina. email@example.com | 981-3377
From the RoundTable blog
Today The Roanoke Times Editorial Board makes its first endorsement in the November 2012 elections. I know what you're thinking, so let me clear up a few misconceptions.
You think we're going to endorse President Barack Obama. Not so.
You think we'll endorse the candidates we believe are most likely to win. Absolutely not.
You think the board will endorse based solely on my personal preferences. Nope.
And finally, you think board members are trying to tell you how to vote. Wrong again.
First, it's our policy to endorse in races in which we offer a perspective you can't find in other newspapers, news channels and other media. This year, we offer recommendations for three House of Representatives districts and a U.S. Senate seat. In those cases, we have a chance to meet candidates and even chat with them outside of election season. We still comment on the presidential campaign because of its significance and because the issues facing our nation are the same across all elections this fall, but we limit endorsements to races central to our core mission as an opinion leader in this community. We will not endorse a presidential candidate.
Second, we are journalists, not bookies. We advise against placing bets on election outcomes based on our endorsements. Like Cubs fans, we take our seats in the political ballpark to cheer for principles we cherish more than an endless series of vapid victories.
Next, I'd like to take a little space here to explain how our endorsement process works, since it's often misunderstood. Board members Luanne Rife, Betty Strother and Christian Trejbal, along with myself and publisher Debbie Meade, meet personally with candidates in the weeks leading up to each election. In some years, it's a challenge to get a paper out each day while cramming in scores of interviews, but we realize it's a privilege few voters enjoy to sit and chat with these public servants. A handful decline our invitation, and thus waive their right to be considered for endorsement, but most welcome the opportunity.
Some candidates treat our meetings like a lecture, but I most enjoy those who are willing to engage in a conversation.
When I ask incumbents, "Why should we endorse you when we disagree with you on virtually every issue?" I'm not trying to be cheeky. It's a genuine question. I've gotten good answers over the years, and some not-so-good ones. Some candidates even say they don't think the board should endorse them. We appreciate that they still took the time for a visit and hope they'll come back again, perhaps with a better answer next time.
We don't expect candidates, particularly newcomers to politics, to know all of the details of every complex policy debate. We are impressed more by people who ask good questions than by those who try to make up an answer on the fly.
Those one-on-one meetings are critical to our final decision, but they aren't the only factor. We look at incumbents' voting records, attend debates and talk to community leaders to get their perspective. We do not, however, consult with news reporters or editors. We prefer to maintain a firewall between the two departments, and they like it that way, too.
Finally, it would be a mistake to read our endorsements as edicts on how to vote. No member of our board is entirely happy with all the choices we've made this fall, and some will likely make different decisions at the polls. Endorsements, like all editorials, are the result of a collaborative process. We argue, negotiate and try to reach a consensus. We prefer to support a mix of Democrats and Republicans, but we won't sacrifice our policy convictions to achieve parity. We favor centrists who recognize the necessity of forging bipartisan coalitions. We encounter few such individuals, and regret their declining influence.
Our readers hold many points of view, as is obvious from the letters and commentaries we publish. We don't expect them all to agree with our choices. Why read the endorsements, then? Because they are different from the thousands of TV attack ads, sleazy political mailers and irritating radio commercials that have tormented you for three months. Can you point to one that admitted both candidates in a particular race are a disappointment, then took the time to explain each one's strengths and shortcomings? You can't. But here we aren't trying to sell you giddy, saccharin-laced hyperbole, just our honest take on the candidates we've met and the issues we care about. I hope you'll take the time to hear us out.
Nuckols is editorial page editor of The Roanoke Times.