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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Stranger Endorsements

In the first for media endorsements (for what they're worth, meaning I'm not sure how influential these might be), the Stranger has endorsed Betty Patu and Kay Smith-Blum. Oddly, they put out their endorsements before their reasoning (to come early next week). I'll update this thread then.

The Times is to announce their endorsements on Tuesday. I'm guessing they will endorse Kay Smith-Blum and Charlie Mas/Wilson Chin. Not sure if the on-line PI will be doing endorsements or when the Seattle Weekly will.

Does it matter to you who the media endorse?

21 comments:

ArchStanton said...

It matters to me when I know little about the candidates. Things like judge positions, port commissioner, or even school board before I was an involved parent. Usually I gather up the usual rags (Times, PI, Stranger, Weekly) and create a meta-"cheat sheet". If there's consensus among the endorsements, I usually follow them. If not, I'll read the supporting articles and do a little more research if I feel the need and decide from there.

So, if I did not know Charlie Mas from his postings here and elsewhere, I might not vote for him if he did not get many media endorsements. Since I do know more about him, it will influence how I vote in this election.

Sahila said...

I think its the weirdest thing, having the media endorse candidates for any public office...

I was taught in journalism school that its not the media's role to take a stand on any issue or to be seen to support any one faction or individual.

Its the media's job to present as many sides of an issue as possible, as factually as possible and to let its audience/readership make up its own mind after that...

In the case of elections, that would be a very factual presentation of a candidate's bio, philosophy, affiliations, statement on his/her agenda should he/she win the election etc. It would not be a statement saying 'we think this is the best candidate' or otherwise

How can you rely on media endorsements to be an apolitical act anyway, now that most media is controlled by big business which certainly has an agenda and an interest in influencing who runs what of our public institutions?

It would be a tad less objectionable if the media made it clear/disclosed with every endorsement what its own political and financial leanings/affiliations are, but they dont...

ArchStanton said...

I was taught in journalism school that its not the media's role to take a stand on any issue or to be seen to support any one faction or individual.

When reporting the news the media should try to be as objective as possible. Editorials and opinion pieces are a different matter. (endorsements fall into that category) Also, I think that savvy readers understand that there is no true objectivity and that journalists are just as fallible as the rest of us.

How can you rely on media endorsements to be an apolitical act anyway, now that most media is controlled by big business which certainly has an agenda and an interest in influencing who runs what of our public institutions?

Savvy consumers of media also understand that there are other interests that can influence media endorsements and can weigh those factors in their thinking. Yes big business has a lot of power, but there is not one unified entity called big business. Many business entities are working towards different ends in competition against each other and even within broadly diversified companies, different organizations may have opposing agendas.

(In some ways, business control of media has made it less biased, in some respects. Historically, many newspapers were highly partisan and often financed largely by political parties.)

It would be a tad less objectionable if the media made it clear/disclosed with every endorsement what its own political and financial leanings/affiliations are, but they dont...

Sure the Stranger is owned by a big corporation, as is the Times, but they each have their own political bent. The Stranger is not going to endorse Palin/McCain just because they are also trying to make a buck - at the very least because they would lose the very readership they serve. Even though monolithic, faceless corporations own the media, it still takes real people to staff and write for them. One of the Stranger writers had a child at Lowell - I expect they might have some opinions that would not fall into lockstep with the agenda of big business.

So, if not the mass media, then who? Bloggers may be considered journalists, but they have the freedom to be even more biased and opinionated. Maybe the people who post on this site? I am sure they each have their own agendas and prejudices, as well.

I think that I was clear in stating that I did not rely solely on one single source to spoon feed me my opinions. To clarify, I rely on the sources mentioned in addition to other blogs, debates, talk radio (liberal and conservative), interviews, talking to others, etc.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time or inclination to do the work of Charlie Mas, or Melissa Westbrook. It would be lovely if I had the time to do all of the primary research and interviews myself. If I did, then I could write the endorsements. 'Til then, I have to take these shortcuts.

Dorothy Neville said...

I think endorsements in newspapers and blogs are fine. I appreciate the overt endorsement on the editorial page and the attempt to keep the news objective (although that's an impossible standard to achieve perfectly). My attention to an endorsement source is something that builds or weakens over time. How much credibility do I give a source? On the issues and candidates that I do know about, did the source ask the same sort of questions, make the same sort of objections and conclusions that I did? If the editorial staff of a newspaper, over time, tends to align with my thinking on issues I have knowledge on, then I tend to trust what they have to say about issues or candidates that I haven't had time or inclination to research. It also helps to listen to the editorial staffers on the radio, the Friday KUOW program, for instance. Over time, you get a sense of a person's thinking, their conclusions and knowledge, and that helps inform my decisions about their endorsements.

Sahila said...

Aye, and there's the rub... assuming that everyone is a 'savvy' reader, has access to multiple sources of information, has the time, energy, headspace and cultural/osmotic background to get where the media and its owners are coming from...

You can fairly safely assume that many white, educated, upper middle-class readers are going to have those skills and resources and approaches to information gathering and decision making, but that's a tiny portion of the electorate....

ArchStanton said...

People who are not "white, educated, upper middle-class" are not simply sheep waiting to be manipulated. Even if they lack the resources that you or I have, they certainly have "skills and...approaches to information gathering and decision making" and can determine what media best speaks to their interests, be it a community newspaper, cultural website, ethnic broadcaster, or even mainstream outlet.

Frankly, there are plenty of "white, educated, upper middle-class" folks who are lacking those skills - or at least failing to put them to good use.

You are quick to criticize the flaws in utilizing media endorsements, but what alternative would you provide to a non-English speaking immigrant, or single parent working two jobs if you restricted their ability to rely on an endorsement from what they consider to be a reliable source?

Not everyone needs multiple sources - sometimes one right source will do.

Sahila said...

The problem is you do not have ONE "neutral" source that can be TRUSTED to provide a non-partisan view of each candidate and their skills, attributes, history and stated agenda...

I dont know if you have ever lived in another culture... I have... I am living in one now... have you got any idea how long it takes to acquire any sense of what is going on in this society and community, to navigate through all the educ-speak, politic-speak, pr-speak, spin, advertising hyperbole, bureaucracy, process, structural mazes etc, etc... AND I HAVE THE ADVANTAGE of being white, middle class, well educated with English pretty much my first language, and having come from a western country before this... Its taken me the better part of 5 years here and there is still much that I dont understand in terms of context and nuance... It took me 3-4 of my 8 years in Australia to get a real sense of what was going on there and Australia is just across 'the 'ditch' from New Zealand, we consider Australian's our kissing cousins and we share much of the same historical political roots...

I think you overestimate the quality of media information available to immigrant and other groups and underestimate the difficulty other groups have in finding reliable information that addresses subjects outside their immediate daily concerns...

How many journals are there that present political and local analysis in multiple languages?

How many TV channels present current events in multiple languages?

Apart from community radio, how many networks present news and current events in multiple languages?

None - because the advertising funding base is too small for them to spend the money to cater for multiple ethnicities...

So, people need to be able to go to at least one reliable source - and there isnt one for many non-WASP population segments....

ArchStanton said...

My question still stands:

You are quick to criticize the flaws in utilizing media endorsements, but what alternative would you provide to a non-English speaking immigrant, or single parent working two jobs if you restricted their ability to rely on an endorsement from what they consider to be a reliable source?

And I mean realistic alternative, not pie-in-the-sky... something someone can use for the next election.

ArchStanton said...

The problem is you do not have ONE "neutral" source that can be TRUSTED to provide a non-partisan view.

Like I said, I don't always need a non-partisan source - if the source speaks to my needs.

I think it is unrealistic to believe that such a singular source could exist.

Sahila said...

If you must have an endorsement system, let the endorsers declare up front their political biases/allegiances and financial affiliations, so that the consumer knows where the slant is coming from...

Again, TRANSPARENCY... put it out there in plain sight for all to see, so that it doesnt take a certain degree of sophistication and skill to read between the lines...

I dont know how anyone could call this a 'pie-in-the-sky' expectation.

Sahila said...

And the alternative is to have no endorsements at all... again, simple, straightforward, practical, not 'pie-in-the-sky'...

Publish only facts - bios/resumes with track records/experience and a statement from each candidate as to what they will bring to the job and what will be their agenda...

Publish this in as many languages as necessary... make it an election special pull out...


Do the same thing in local news on radio and television, with the help of audio clips from each of the candidates...

Leave it at that - no editorialising/endorsing...leave people to make up their own minds...

What is so hard about that? Other countries do it all the time...

ArchStanton said...

Publish only facts - bios/resumes with track records/experience and a statement from each candidate as to what they will bring to the job and what will be their agenda...

That doesn't sound too different from the voters guide - maybe with more of a resume (and more opportunities to pad and puff it up). Sorry, I like endorsements from sources knowledgeable on their particular subject.

Take the judge positions for example. Sure it might be nice to know statistics about a judges rulings, but it lacks the analysis that a good editorial can provide. Maybe the candidate is extra tough on crime with a particular minority group, maybe the candidate is known for sexual harassment outside the courtroom, or maybe the candidate is a stealth republican running for a non-partisan office - possibly as a stepping stone to higher office.

Opinion pieces, editorials, and endorsements serve to fill in the details that the sort of voters guide you describe would omit.

MathTeacher42 said...

Given that the Seattle Times keeps bleating against taxes which prevent hereditary royalty, aristocracy and elites - I DO value who they endorse.
Except Charlie, I would almost never vote for anyone they like.
Bob Murphy.

Sahila said...

Arch - the media can provide all of that information you speak about as statements of fact.... without the editorialising and endorsing...

Statement of fact about Jane or John Doe:
this is Jane/John...
this is their educational history...
this is their employment/credit/criminal history..
this is their specialty background...
this is their cultural or ethnicity background...
these are their achievements in whatever field...
this is the record of their community work...
these are their political and social affiliations...
this is who supports them and the agenda/public statements on issues these people have made...
this is where they get their campaign money from...
these are the skills they bring to the position
here is their position statement/agenda on what they will try to accomplish should they be elected...

I dont see what is so hard about this....

And Bob - you know what the Seattle Times ownership is all about and what its slant is.... other people without local knowledge/langauge/experience/political 'savvy' dont necessarily get that from its content and rely on it to tell the 'truth'... I wouldnt have such a problem with endorsements if the Times, for example, declared its own position/agenda/affiliations each time it backed a candidate... or ran a tagline under its banner proclaiming exactly where its coming from - and yes, pigs will fly one day!

ArchStanton said...

I dont see what is so hard about this....

I know. That is why you don't understand why it has not automagickally happened already.

I'm done here. You may have the last word if you like.

Charlie Mas said...

This week the Stranger published their reasons for their picks.

They considered me a qualified candidate, and described me, not unflatteringly, as "Charlie Mas, wonkiest wonk of all school-district wonky-wonks.".

They also described this blog as "a creepily obsessive school-board blog"

But they gave the nod to Betty Patu because they believe she is hard-core.

They did not mention Mr. Chin.

In the District 5 race, the Stranger chose Kay Smith-Blum over Mary Bass because she was their preferred brand of crazy. No mention was made of Ms Cullen or Mr. Helmstetter.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, and their reasoning was incredibly weird. It almost sounded like they thought being afraid of Kay and Betty was a good thing - it sounded more like a Mom complex than an endorsement.

I wrote in their comment section about their need to repeatedly say how dull school board elections are. Well, only if you aren't a parent. Then it matters a lot. I also wrote that if we are obsessive here, it is because we are discussing public education (the backbone of our society) and children's lives and taxpayer dollars. Those dull topics. If that makes Charlie and I (and our other contributors) obsessive, I'll wear that badge proudly.

Steve Zemke said...

The Stranger is missing the boat on Charlie Mas and people like him and this blog that care about education in Seattle and are fanatic about it.

My experience in the Ingraham High School battle over unnecessarily building in a rare plant habitat (madrone conifer forest) and not caring, was that the School Board members did not do due diligence in examining the issues involved. They still aren't as the Administration has filed an addendum to the original environmnetal checklist that still ignores the stand as a rare plant habitat as confirmed by the Seattle Hearing Examiner.

Where is the oversight if Board members don't pay attention to the details?

Having School Board members like Peter Maier tell us last year that he didn't know when they were planning to start construction of the project even though he was the representative to the BEX oversight committee which received monthly timelines and budgets, is not who the School Board needs more of. He also represents the District Ingraham was in and he had not even visited the site to check it out until we started asking questions. Steve Sundquist also had not visited the site yet was voting to move the Project forward.

If Charlie Mas is a wonk I say more power to him. The School District could use more wonks who know what is going on and know how to ask questions and demand answers.

Too many on the current School Board rely on the Administrative staff for answers and don't ask questions and don't feel the need to respond to the public when they ask questions. The School Board should not be a rubber stamp for the Superintendent and staff.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I had to add this comment from the comment section of The Stranger's endorsements:

"It occurs to me that the reporters from The Stranger who cover the local music scene and City Hall politics have a knowledge on those topics as deep and broad as Charlie Mas' knowledge of school district issues. Does that mean that your reporters and your paper are "creepily obsessive"? Will that become your new slogan?"

Signed, Creepily Obsessive

Very funny.

gavroche said...

I've been very disappointed and quite shocked, actually, by the Stranger's lack of coverage of Seattle Public Schools issues in general this past year, from the closures fiasco to the questionable influence of the Broad Foundation or the various lawsuits that have recently been filed against the District.

I've heard that Dan Savage's school-age son does not attend SPS, but goes to school in Shoreline or elsewhere. If so, that may explain Editor Savage's lack of personal interest in what's going on in our School District and consequently his paper's shallow analysis of the School Board candidates. But it does not in any way excuse it.

gavroche said...

Another thing about the Stranger -- last City Council Election, I remember them endorsing someone in the Primary and then ditching their candidate and switching their endorsement to the incumbent in the General.

Sure, they are allowed to do that, but the reasons they gave for this inconsistency indicated that they weren't really that serious in their initial support of the candidate, but just wanted him to get to the General to make things more interesting, or whatever.

Since then, I've not taken their capricious endorsements very seriously. This is unfortunate, since there are so few print media outlets remaining and the Stranger could make a valuable contribution to the debate -- if it could only be bothered to do so.

Sometimes I wish the Stranger would grow up.