No more endorsement letters

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The corporation that owns the Chronicle Times has a policy against letters to the editor that endorse candidates for public office.

Since we had already published such letters prior to learning of the policy, we continued publishing such letters prior to the June 7 primary. We did not publish one letter that could have been printed the Friday before the Tuesday primary election because that would not have allowed time for a response before the election.

That brings up one of the problems with allowing endorsement letters. If someone wants to respond to a candidate endorsement with a response that would be printed too late for a response to the response, do we print it?

The letter that was not printed contained no negative allegations against the opponent of the endorsed candidate, but we don't want to get into the position of deliberating on which letters should be printed and which should not based on content and on the potential need to respond during the available time frame.

We haven't had a problem with negative comments in endorsement letters this year nor in the recent past, but other Rust Publications have had this problem and dealt with the need to referee the public back and forth on the commentary page.

One year, a number of endorsements for the same candidate flooded our newspaper close to the date of the election. Although these endorsements didn't make allegations against opponents, the fact that letters from supporters of one candidate almost filled the commentary page in the edition prior to an election gave us a feeling of being used.

Another question that arises is how much free publicity do we owe to an endeavor that traditionally is the subject of paid advertising? The easiest response to the question is none.

We make no apology that the existence of our product relies on selling advertising. We certainly don't want to make space available on the commentary page based on the quantity of advertising purchased. That would be rather tacky.

We understand and support the Rust Communications policy, but even if we didn't, that would not change the policy.