Archived Story

Election coverage must be fair, balanced

Published 8:02am Thursday, April 10, 2014

In today’s world it seems like the election cycle is pretty much non-stop — just like the cable television news programs that cover the ins and outs of modern politics.

The Aug. 5 primary election may seem like a long ways away but it will be here before we know it, with the November general election following shortly thereafter.

With that being said, it is important for any media outlet to clearly define its policies on covering local elections. And it is absolutely vital for a community newspaper to go above and beyond in this capacity.

In a perfect world everyone would play nice with each other and run clean, fair political campaigns. Sadly, that isn’t always the case.

So, Leader Publications wants to clearly establish the ground rules.

First, no candidate running for office will be allowed to write guest columns or letters to the editor after the filing deadline. This even applies to incumbents and those who may be regular contributors to the newspapers. Even printing “non-political” commentary by these individuals would create an imbalance when it comes to fairness.

Second, letters from supporters or endorsing a candidate must be received at least three weeks prior to an election and we will cease publishing them at least one week prior. Submissions that are easily proven to be form letters instead of the author’s own words will not be printed and Leader Publications reserves the right to reject any letter that doesn’t meet standard guidelines for submissions.

Third, all political ads must be approved by me and may require substantiation of claims. All ads that challenge or target an opponent will be cut off at least one week prior to the election after a targeted candidate has the chance to respond if they so choose.

Fourth, Leader’s news coverage will be more consistent than in years past. The news staff will write a candidate profile after an individual formally files his or her petitions. We will do a race preview prior to the election and provide news coverage of the results.

Campaign stops, public events and candidate forums will be evaluated on their news impact to the public. The newspaper will not cover private or party fundraisers.

Hopefully none of these policies will be needed and it will be a positive election process.

Overall, our goal is to create a level playing field for all candidates and ensure the newspaper remains the best source for fair and balanced coverage.

Informed and engaged voters are vital to a functioning democracy. Local newspapers remain the best option when it comes to getting the vital information needed to cut through the rhetoric and political spin, a tough task that still ultimately falls on the citizens.

 

Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at mike.caldwell@leaderpub.com.

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