While working as a newspaper publisher since 1985, a couple of things have not changed over all of that time. I don’t like politics. I rarely like politicians.
That has been difficult over the years as every election brings a swarm of politicians wanting the newspaper to do stories about what a great job they will do. And then, of course, they want the newspaper to endorse them on the opinion page over their opponent.
I’ve dealt with that mainly by ignoring most of them. It isn’t personal. It is simply that experience has proven most are self-serving, often abusive of power that was granted to them in trust by taxpayers, and are just plain boring to talk with. And, unfortunately, some prove corrupt.
A case in point of the latter was a time while I was publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail that both the most recent governor and the most recent president of the state senate were in prison on federal corruption charges. I had shaken hands of both men prior to the federal charges being filed. I felt a little dirtier for it later when the truth came out about them.
The late Paul Allingham, owner of the Atchison Daily Globe (yes, the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroad Atchison) in Kansas gave me a bit of cynical advice when he named me editor of his newspaper at age 28: “If someone wants something in the newspaper, it is advertising. If they don’t want it in the newspaper, it is news.”
He said it with a wink so I don’t think he meant it as a hard and fast rule. I have always believed there are plenty of things that people want in the newspaper that qualify as news. But I have pretty much followed that advice when it comes to politics and politicians.
Already the Tribune is getting a flood of political propaganda from all the candidates. Almost none of it gets printed in the news pages. That is because it is nothing more than advertising. And I don’t believe in free advertising.
We have a plan for the political game about to be played out. A group of Tribune editors and reporters plan to meet with candidates for the upcoming elections on designated days in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler and Tempe. They will be asked to provide specific information and comments about their respective races. And they will be given instructions about how to post additional information on a section of the Tribune’s website set aside for the political debate. And they will be given information on how to advertise.
The Tribune will compile that information into an election section to inform our readers about each candidate. All of it will reside on the eastvalleytribune.com website. Some of it will make it into the newspaper as space allows.
As for dirty political games, attack-rhetoric and lack of civility, the perpetrators of that kind of politics will not have much sympathy from the Tribune. As a voter, I think the majority of us reward the more civil and less radical (right or left) candidate with our votes.
Of course, editors will make judgments every day about election issues. Election stories will be written so that Tribune readers will be informed about candidates. Reporters will do their best to do the story right down the middle and not take sides with a candidate or a party.
The Tribune will do very few endorsements on its opinion page. We will endorse only in elections where we think one candidate is very bad (thus, endorsing their opponent) or when one candidate is very good. Our goal is not to tell people how to vote. Our goal with endorsements is simply to keep voters from making a really big mistake.
So candidates will really be revving up their engines in the coming weeks and months. Voters will most certainly be tired of hearing about elections long before the voting day arrives. And the Tribune will do its best to help voters to information they need while trying to stay in neutral all through the process.
Terry Horne is publisher and editor of the East Valley Tribune and general manager of 1013 Communications Arizona, which also includes the Daily News-Sun in Sun City, the Ahwatukee Foothills News, Arizona Interactive Media, The Explorer in Tucson, Glendale-Peoria Today and Surprise Today.