Our Voice: Political endorsements offer voters a valuable tool

Beginning Tuesday, the space set aside for our editorial opinion will be devoted primarily to political endorsements.

They will continue through much of October in an attempt to give readers another perspective on the candidates running for office in the Nov. 4 general election.

It is a labor-intensive process in which we spend many hours meeting with candidates, discussing issues and, if they are the incumbents, questioning past decisions they made while in office.

Then we have our own discussion on who we recommend. Sometimes the decision to endorse a particular candidate is obvious. Sometimes we are divided.

In the past, readers have questioned the fairness of the editorial board's decision to recommend one particular candidate over another, especially if they don't agree with our choice.

It is important to emphasize the news department of the Tri-City Herald is not involved in the opinion of the editorial board, and the editorial board does not guide the news.

The names on the top of this page have a different job than the reporters covering their beats.

This section of the paper is devoted to opinion. Stimulating debate is its primary function, whether it be with our voice, the voice of our letter writers, columnists or artists drawing political cartoons.

The news department presents the facts of the story. Opinion writers take those facts and put them in perspective. We guide, praise, encourage and criticize.

Ballots in Benton County will be mailed to the general public on Oct. 14 and in Franklin County on Oct. 17.

Voters faced with the task of deciding who gets their vote in races both obscure and well known can use the Tri-City Herald as a resource.

We live in an era of sound-bites, self-promoting websites and social media campaigns that all sound great on the surface but offer little depth.

This newspaper strives to provide a credible forum in which candidates can answer tough questions and be held accountable for their answers if elected to office.

In some races, particularly in lower-profile statewide contests where it is difficult for candidates to meet the public, a newspaper endorsement is their best way to introduce themselves and present their message.

Political endorsements have been a long tradition of the Tri-City Herald and many other papers across the country. It is a way for us to provide leadership to the community, even if readers disagree our choice. At the very least, we provide a unique insight to political races that can't be found anywhere else.

We encourage voters to conduct their own research before they vote, and we consider ourselves one more tool in that effort.

We don't endorse candidates to tell people how to vote. We make recommendations with justification to provide another perspective to the conversation.