In its bi-ennial ritual of kissing up to the Salem Chamber of Commerce and their biggest advertisers, the so-called Statesman Journal Editorial Board is rolling out its endorsements for Mayor and three contested City Council races.
(So far they're two for two in endorsing Chamber candidates; in 2014 the newspaper was four for four.)
I feel justified in using the term so-called to describe the Editorial Board, because all of the six members are employed by the newspaper. No community members are on the Editorial Board.
So when the newspaper says, "The Editorial Board endorses...," it would be more accurate to say "Six Statesman Journal staff members endorse..."
Tonight the newest endorsement (for Ward 5 City Councilor) turned up online. Jim Scheppke left the first comment on the Statesman Journal's endorsement of Tiffany Partridge over Matt Ausec.
Please inform your readers about the "six-member Statesman Journal Editorial Board." Who are these people that are making these "composite decisions?" Do they include any members of the community? The Salem Weekly discloses the names of its Editorial Board members in every issue. They include four community members plus the editor. Your readers demand to know who is on your Board.
I was happy to answer Jim's question after doing a bit of Googling.
Jim, each of the six members of the Statesman Journal Editorial Board are newspaper staff. There are no members from the community. They are listed at the bottom right of the Opinion page.
Ryan Kedzierski, SJ Publisher
Michael Davis, SJ Executive Editor
Dick Hughes, SJ Editorial Page Editor
Paul Nettland, SJ Media Distribution Director
Kaellen Hessel, SJ Reporter
Carol McAlice Currie, SJ Reporter
So it's not surprising that the political endorsements are almost always in line with the Chamber of Commerce, and out of touch with how candidates are viewed by the broader community.
The Statesman Journal Editorial Board really should be referred to as "Statesman Journal Staff." As in, "Six Statesman Journal staff members have endorsed _____." irksome about this
Here's a specific example of what's irksome about this farce of an editorial board: After the board endorsed Chuck Bennett for Mayor over his opponent, Carole Smith, editorial board member Kaellen Hessel switched to being a reporter and wrote a news piece, "Familiar faces running for Salem mayor."
So after being part of a group of Statesman Journal staff who said they favor Chuck Bennett for Mayor, we're supposed to believe that Hessel is capable objectively reporting on the Mayor's race? Give me a break...
Anyway, returning to the comments on the Ward 5 City Council seat editorial, Alex Kohan weighed in with a perceptive comment on the endorsement of Ausec's opponent by the Six Statesman Journal Staff Members.
"We evaluate each race and each candidate and recommend whoever we think is most competent, effective, experienced and skilled" SJ endorsement criteria.
It is very clear listening to Tiffany Partridge speak that she does not have the grasp or depth of policy nor the experience that Matt Ausec has. There is also her troubled term on the Culture and Tourism Commission. One term is supposed to be three years on the board, however she only lasted two years on the commission, probably because she only went to 4 of the 13 meetings during those two years. Does the SJ really want someone that unreliable on the city council?
Comparing Matt Ausec and Tiffany Partridge's voter's pamphlet statement it is very clear that Matt is the more qualified and knowledgeable candidate.
Current: Event Planner, Communications Chair (does not specify employer)
Occupational Background: Operations Director, Volunteer Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, Restaurant Manager (apparently Figaro's Pizza) (does not specify employer for other jobs)
Governmental Experience: Cultural and Tourism Promotion and Advisory Board (see note above about attendance record), Communications Chair for Women's Caucus of Democratic Party of Oregon
Current: Senior Policy Analyst, Office of the State Chief Information Officer
Occupation Background: Lead Policy Analyst, Oregon Health Authority; Board Member, Institute for Culture and Ecology; Policy Analyst, Oregon Health and Science University; Human Resources Analyst, Nike; Data Management, US Bank; Business Analyst, Sanofi Pharmaceuticals; Public Information Specialist, Federal Election Commission
It is clear Matt Ausec is by far the most qualifed candidate for the job. He has far more experience working with policy and experience in government.
Come on Statesman Journal, do your research before you decide to endorse candidates!
Alex, that's an entirely reasonable expectation. But here's the larger question: why are Six Statesman Journal Staff Members making political endorsements at all?
I wrote about this back in May 2014. Here's an excerpt from "Statesman Journal shouldn't make election endorsements."
I hope Statesman Journal executives will consider how jarring it is for readers to be told for 363 days a year that their community newspaper is committed to pursuing journalistic truth wherever it lies, fearlessly investigating wrongdoing by politicians and government officials.
Then, on two days of the year, before primary and general elections, the Statesman Journal wholeheartedly expresses the support of its small editorial board for certain politicians -- after which the newspaper repeatedly urges readers to vote for them.
Yet us readers are expected to believe that the same Statesman Journal executives -- publisher, executive editor, editorial page editor -- who were so supportive of politician X won't let their personal political views influence subsequent news and editorial content decisions.
Understand: I'm not saying that newspaper staff shouldn't have political opinions.
But recently a reporter at the Statesman Journal explained why she doesn't sign initiative petitions or otherwise get personally involved with supporting certain candidates: it would make readers think she wasn't capable of reporting fairly and independently.
Well, why doesn't this apply equally (heck, even more so) to the newspaper executives who are deciding what news and opinion pieces get published in the Statesman Journal? How ethical is it that Steve Silberman, publisher of the paper, is about to join the Chamber of Commerce board of directors?
The Chamber endorsed four candidates for City Council. The Statesman Journal editorial board endorsed those same four candidates, offering up very little solid policy reasons for doing so. Just because, basically.
Naturally the editorial board would take offense that their personal political views, as expressed in the newspaper's candidate endorsements, have anything at all to do with their supposedly journalistically pure assessment of each city council candidate's qualifications.
Many readers, including me, are skeptical about this.
So wouldn't it be better, as the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board concluded, to give up the charade that in this 21st century, a few people who happen to be newspaper executives have the right to use their community journalism platform to tell everybody else in Salem how to vote?
As the Sun-Times said, community newspapers supposedly represent and serve everybody. This makes the Statesman Journal different from our alternative newspaper, Salem Weekly, which unabashedly has a liberal slant. And different from the Chamber of Commerce, which unabashedly has a conservative slant.
I've lost confidence that the Statesman Journal really cares about everybody in Salem, in part because of its editorial page endorsements. Maybe the newspaper doesn't care about me, and so many others, feeling this way.
But it should.