A couple of weeks ago, I came up with the idea of doing something different with endorsements this cycle. Back during the campaigns for the June primaries, I became frustrated that we had so many candidates, and so little time and space, that we didn’t serve readers as well as we should have. After hours and hours and hours of interviews, research and discussion, in some cases our explanations of endorsements were absurdly abbreviated, in extreme cases amounting to less than a sentence. And as I’ve always said, to me the endorsement is ABOUT the explanation, so I was very dissatisfied. All of that work, and so little of it shared with readers.
So I said to my colleagues at the time, we either needed to do better in the future, or quit endorsing altogether. Our staff is too small to spend that much time on something that produces such thin gruel for readers.
Of course, being obsessive, we resolved to keep doing it, but do it better. Fortunately for that purpose, we had far fewer contested races to deal with in the fall. This fact is UNfortunate for democracy — the fact that primary contests are far more numerous than general election ones is a testament to the power of incumbency and partisanship in redistricting. But at least it offered us a chance to be somewhat more thorough in our presentation, to make it more reflective of our preparation.
A couple of weeks ago, I thought of a way to do even better: Do our endorsements earlier. In the past, we’ve held them as long as we can, given the number we have to do — the theory being that that’s when voters are paying the most attention. Also, it meant we had as much information as possible, preventing post-endorsement "surprises" about the candidates.
But I proposed to Warren and Cindi that we start doing them as soon as we can. It keeps them from being jammed up, thereby allowing us more space. It also frees us up as commentators. Increasingly, I have found it hard to write the summaries of interviews without going ahead and saying "this is the guy for us" or "no way on this one." You’ll note that I haven’t written anything from the interviews with the candidates in today’s endorsement of Anton Gunn, because the choice was so clear, and I hate to scoop my colleagues. Now, I’m free to go back and write those blog entries from the interviews — which I will, perhaps today — as well as to write columns. I suspect that Cindi and Warren will find additional things they want to say about their candidates once the ice is broken with an endorsement. Maybe not, but we’ll see.
In any event, I’ve been pleased with the first two endorsements (one running today, the other tomorrow), even if that’s all that is written. They flow better, they’re less cramped and hurried in their style. They’re more thoughtful. And that’s supposed to be the point — provoking thought.
Anyway, here’s the endorsement of Anton Gunn. More commentary on that contest will be forthcoming.