GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 3, 2012

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? Cape Ann's interests are primary basis of endorsements

Why Did My Newspaper Do That? By Ray Lamont
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The home stretch for the election season also means an important season for newspapers and other media outlets as well.

That’s the endorsement season. And if you’ve been following the Opinion pages of the Gloucester Daily Times and our online gloucestertimes.com this past week, you would have noticed that we endorsed Republican Scott Brown for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat on Monday and Democrat John Tierney for a ninth term in his U.S. House seat on Friday.

This is an odd election year for us at the Times. While our colleagues around the North Shore and Merrimack Valley have also been dealing with local state representative and state Senate races, the state House and Senate regions we cover do not include a single contest, with state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, whose district includes Gloucester, Rockport and Essex, Rep. Brad Hill, who represents Manchester, and state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester all running unopposed.

We could and likely would have endorsed them, as we had in the past, but there’s no need to make any endorsements in uncontested races. And while Democrat Eileen Duff of Gloucester is in a contested race for Governor’s Council with Haverhill Republican Maura Ciardiello, there’s relatively little to choose between them for that seat other than the fact that Duff is from Gloucester and would bring a Cape Ann perspective to that body. Neither is a lawyer, and in that vein, either would bring the kind of fresh new outlook that the council needs.

We also endorsed “no” votes on Questions 2 and 3 – opposing the assisted suicide bill and the bill allowing the use of medicinal marijuana – and we urged a “yes” vote on Question 1 to better protect consumers through the “right to repair” initiative. But we formally endorsed only the candidates for the congressional and Senate seats. And no, we will not be making an endorsement for president.

Why? Shouldn’t a newspaper making endorsements make a choice for the presidency? And how are these endorsements decided in the first place? In other words, why would your community’s newspaper do that?

First, you may recall we did not make an endorsement in the 2008 presidential race. That’s because, we really do see ourselves as a true community newspaper, with a clear focus on local news, community information and sports from Page 1 to the back page each and every day.

We recognize that, except in the case of especially dramatic events or emergencies, readers get their national and global news from other sources — just as CNN and major metro newspapers can’t possibly provide the level of coverage of Gloucester and Cape Ann issues that those same readers get in the Times. And in that same sense, we would expect readers to rely on other sources for any presidential recommendations and endorsements as well.

The Senate and congressional races hit much closer to home. And in each of those races, we met with all of the involved candidates here at the Times, with congressional challenger Richard Tisei and Elizabeth Warren visiting and meeting with, in various combinations, me, Times Publisher Mark Zappala and one or more of our reporters earlier on, while incumbents Brown and Tierney visited over the last two weeks.

While the reporters — alternately Richard Gaines and Steven Fletcher — crafted news stories on the candidates’ visits and their comments, while Mark and I met a number of times to discuss our choices for endorsement.

What drives those choices? As the endorsements themselves conveyed, we didn’t necessarily base our endorsements on the candidates’ broader views crossing the full spectrum of national issues. They are based on which candidates we felt offers what would be best for the communities and the people of Cape Ann, from the government’s dealing with the fishing industry to health care programs for veterans and seniors – both significant percentages of our local population.

I don’t expect you to agree or disagree with any and all endorsements we make here at the Times. But in crafting all of these endorsements, our focus is always to, as a community newspaper, put Gloucester and Cape Ann first.

As ever, let me know what you think.

Questions? Comments? Is there an issue you’d like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, x3438, or at rlamont@gloucestertimes.com.