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What a Week: Why no endorsements

Editorial: Jeremy Walsh explains why the Pleasanton Weekly, Livermore Vine and DanvilleSanRamon.com have not endorsed candidates ahead of this primary election.
Jeremy Walsh_2022
Jeremy Walsh, editor.

You may have noticed our editorial board has not issued endorsements ahead of this primary election. I know some candidates have certainly noticed.

Since I've explained the factors to some, I figured it's only fair to share with our readers -- because, whether I always like this aspect of my job or not, many voters do consider our recommendations when casting their ballots, particularly in the less-publicized local contests.

No, there aren't any political motivations for our decision this spring. The short answer: No time.

Endorsements are a monumental task for our editorial board, which is led by myself and publisher Gina Channell Wilcox. We'll pull in Livermore Vine editor Cierra Bailey, editor emeritus Jeb Bing and even company president Bill Johnson for other insights as needed too.

Our board will reach consensus on an election recommendation -- same for any editorial stance -- and then Gina or I will trade off serving as lead author for the endorsement articles.

(And just so it's said, I'm not speaking for Gina or anyone else on our editorial board or staff. This is my perspective on our process, which to me should go without saying in my column space, but hey, might as well be crystal clear.)

For endorsements, our editorial board will either hold individual interviews with each candidate, or in cases where we moderate election forums, we'll rely on their responses and performances in our public debates.

For the June 7 primary, with Alameda County and Zone 7 offices alone, that would've meant 17 interviews. Then factor in our Contra Costa County coverage areas, plus state and federal legislative seats representing the Tri-Valley.

It proved unattainable this spring, especially because we've been in the midst of a demanding staffing crunch that made it prohibitive for Gina and I to conduct interviews and necessary research to make informed endorsements.

Not to unnecessarily throw a competitor under the bus, but I was struck by watching a fellow local newspaper just weeks ago have to retract an endorsement because they didn't do enough research into a candidate's public record before rushing out their initial editorial. Stunning.

That exchange re-enforced my mindset for 2022: Do it right, or don't do it all.

This was a difficult decision that disappoints me, pains me, but it was really the only option for us.

Which is funny, considering where I stood on this issue in college and at the outset of my career.

As a young adult, I distanced myself from election positions -- and frankly any serious stance -- in the name of ethics. I thought a true journalist couldn't have and shouldn't share opinions to ensure objectivity. Boy was I misguided.

The perspective I would develop, after years of internal reflection and watching local and national issues unfold, is that it's the objectivity of the news article and of the coverage approach itself that matter most.

If judges, doctors, police officers, educators and every other profession more important (and more well-compensated) can be tasked with doing their job fairly while still holding personal views, then certainly the same can be expected of a news editor or reporter.

A good, ethical journalist can produce objective work regardless of their feelings. And of course, those feelings are present, whether we acknowledge them or suppress them. That's the reality.

Oh, and in terms of confronting my own struggle, it helped very much that my promotion to editor in 2017 came with the requirement to sit on the editorial board and write editorial comments.

I've come to respect, and even enjoy, the process of writing editorials -- though they may be a chore sometimes, not unlike this column.

With endorsement editorials, I approach the deliberations from this question: What election outcome would best serve the community and represent the ideals of a majority of its constituents? And remember, our board must reach consensus. Decisions can be far from easy.

And for me, it's not necessarily just "who would I vote for?" We must factor in our readers' views as well.

But since we're not doing endorsements this spring, my mindset now turns inward as I look at my Contra Costa County ballot at home. Which candidates will strive to represent and achieve my priorities?

Who will work to make sure my son can go to elementary school without fear of being gunned down in class?

After all of these years of posturing, who will prioritize strengthening our water reliability now and into the future? What about wildfire solutions, finally? Women's health rights? Stand up to corporate greed? Smarter government spending? Election protections? Affordable housing (as in truly affordable)? Criminal justice? Quality education?

The list goes on for me; I'm sure it does for you as well.

I'll be ready to turn in my ballot on June 7, and then again Nov. 8. Here's to hoping you're inspired to vote too.

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.