It should always be affirmed at the outset that for most elections, most candidates behave with dignity and a sense of responsibility. But at the same time, many don’t. So as the campaign leading to the March 15 primary ﴾and Feb. 29 early voting﴿ gets under way in earnest, it’s useful to reflect on some actions involving candidates and newspapers that you should beware of.
Many of these relate to our endorsements and our endorsement process. One that particularly frustrates me has to do with late‐season circulars and fliers from candidates whom we did not endorse quoting out of context something nice our editorials may have said about them along with our name or even an image of our nameplate or our printed page to suggest that we endorsed them. If a candidate’s flier doesn’t specifically state that we endorsed him or her, we probably supported the opponent.
Keep that in mind. But even that can be tricky. I’ll have occasion in October to re‐emphasize this one, but it’s worth preparing for even during the primary. As we conduct interviews and provide recommendations for candidates during the primary, we are identifying candidates we think have the best potential among the challengers within their party for the position they are seeking. Come the general election, we may well prefer the candidate from the other party, but it’s not unheard‐of to see a candidate’s flier claiming “endorsed by the Daily Herald,” when the endorsement was for the primary, not for the general election.
Letters to the editor also can be a source of some political deception. We do not permit candidates or their immediate families to publish letters during a campaign, but that doesn’t stop some campaigns from producing letters they ask supporters to submit. To the degree possible, we strive to ensure that the letters we publish were written by the individuals who signed them, but identifying frauds can be extremely difficult.
A more identifiable deception involving letters can involve, again, campaign fliers. Occasionally, candidates will produce fliers with headlines from a letter to the editor or even excerpts from letters and identify the material as “from the Daily Herald,” which is technically accurate but far from honest.
Beware, too, of outrageous accusations on fliers in the final days of the campaign when a subject has little or no chance to refute them. We are sometimes besieged with pleas to publish such claims and have strict rules prohibiting reports about them if it’s too late for a target to respond. It’s one reason we also stop publishing any election letters on the Friday before Election Day.
And, remember, all of the guile that can be disguised and reproduced in printed fliers can be magnified and multiplied many times over through email and social media. Such behaviors are not, I repeat, the rule among respectable candidates. But election decisions are important. Don’t let less‐than‐respectable tactics attract your vote to a candidate you wouldn’t otherwise support or away from one you would.
Jim Slusher, [email protected], is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher