Newspapers, particularly newspapers in smaller communities, have many responsibilities, one of those is the task of ensuring its readers and the community it serves is informed when it comes to candidates running for elections.
The Lebanon Democrat’s approach to election coverage this year hopes to fulfill that obligation by the time the primary and general elections roll around. Each candidate running for office has been, if not already, afforded one announcement of his or her intention for candidacy to publish.
Those announcements have been found on the bottom of the front page of the newspaper and will continue to be the “standard placement” for such stories.
This year, The Democrat will profile many of those candidates running in our local races and ask each to complete a questionnaire tied directly to challenges and opportunities facing the office being sought. All candidates will be given the chance to provide biographical information along with their answers, as well as guidelines for length and responses.
If a candidate doesn’t meet a given deadline, then they won’t be included in the rotation of published answers. Candidates – don’t worry, we’ll make sure you have plenty of time to answer these and return them back to our office prior to deadline.
In addition, The Democrat will also publish a special edition this year prior to the election. Our plans are to focus on the most important races that are contested in this election and to make sure that our readers feel confident and informed prior to casting their ever-important ballot.
Outside of those two or three opportunities, you won’t find much more about a particular candidate being published in The Democrat. There may be some “issue” stories focusing on items of particular interest, some coverage of upcoming election forums, and so on. All reporting and coverage of the elections will be done in a fair and unbiased manner and one where each candidate is given a chance to participate in relevant matters.
As we work to provide credible coverage of this year’s election, it’s important to note that we won’t be covering fish frys, cookouts and especially any event where fundraising is taking place. Perhaps most importantly, there will be absolutely no mudslinging of any sort allowed to publish in the pages of this newspaper.
The editorial page is open, however, for opinions on candidates by methods of submitting letters to the editor or guest columns.
However, letters about a candidate or office will not be allowed to run within two weeks of its election and must qualify by the standards already set in place for opinion submissions.
The opinion page is a place to advocate for a candidate or just the opposite and is the appropriate place for “opinions.”
And although we welcome opinions, they must not include any name-calling and it’s not the place to sling mud against another candidate.
The newspaper will continue to strive to be fair in its reporting and coverage of elections for many years to come.
That can’t be done if the newspaper or its employees are considered to be in support of a certain candidate. Consequently, you won’t find any of the newspaper’s employees contributing to campaigns or with signs of support in their yards.
The Democrat’s intent isn’t to shy away from the sensationalism of elections and intrigue or interest that comes with certain campaigns.
Rather, our intent is to handle news coverage above board and in an unbiased way so that our readers, who are primarily voters, are given credible and accurate information that they know they can rely on.
Jesse Lindsey is vice president and publisher of The Lebanon Democrat, Mt. Juliet News and Hartsville Vidette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jesselindsey.