Beginning with the November election, the Argus-Courier is making a change to its editorial policy by no longer endorsing candidates for public office.
As most readers are aware, the Argus-Courier is part of Halifax Media Group, headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida. The policy change was communicated recently by Halifax CEO Michael Redding to all newspapers in the group, including our sister newspaper, the Press Democrat.
Driving the change in policy is a desire to prevent a perception of bias in covering political races. According to Redding, "Endorsing and recommending candidates has the potential to create the idea that we are not able to fairly cover political races. Right or wrong, it is the perception."
We're not sure how many people share that perception here in Petaluma, but we are very sure about our commitment to fairness in our news coverage. Many excellent newspapers across the country do not endorse candidates for elected office and, to help prevent any perception of bias in our news coverage, that is the course we will now pursue.
The one exception is that we will continue to make recommendations on ballot measures affecting the Petaluma community, just as we will continue to offer opinions and perspectives on important community issues, including elections.
There are differing opinions on the merits of newspapers endorsing candidates, and some readers will agree with this change of policy while others will not.
In terms of informing readers about the qualities and differences among the candidates for elected office, our reporters will continue covering the issues and the candidates' positions, statements and actions so that readers may be as well informed as possible before casting their votes. That's our primary job and that will not change.
Also unchanged will be our commitment to providing an open forum for diverse opinions. A newspaper's editorial page represents a longstanding American tradition encompassing the free and robust exchange of ideas and opinions aimed at ensuring an informed populace. Part of that includes editorials which are written by John Jackson, who doubles as our sports editor, and me.
Our objective in writing editorials is to advocate for the best in Petaluma. That includes spotlighting community problems and potential solutions, and bringing attention to the many contributions of the people and organizations that make Petaluma an extraordinary community in which to live and work.
We believe we can continue to effectively further these goals without endorsing candidates in local elections.
John Burns, Publisher