Why we decided to endorse a presidential candidate

This August, during the first session of our staff-wide training, the very first question I asked was “Should we endorse a presidential candidate this year?”

The answer was an overwhelming “Yes.” And about 12 weeks later, everyone still agreed.

That’s why, right above this column, you can see that we endorsed President Barack Obama. It wasn’t unanimous — Obama received about 60 percent of the vote. Some members of the editorial board chose to support Gary Johnson, one of us advocated for Jill Stein and one abstained.

Forty one of the 100 largest newspapers in the country endorsed Obama, compared to 34 for Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney. Two decided to give neither a vote of confidence, according to a University of California-Santa Barbara study. Eight newspapers that intend to write endorsements haven’t written one by time of print.

But what about the other 15 that chose not to make an endorsement?

In a 2008 article in Time, Richard Stengel, the magazine’s managing editor, blasted the practice of presidential endorsements by the media.

“Media outlets should publish editorials and take positions, but the vote for President is the most personal decision we make as citizens,” he wrote. “No one wants to be told how to vote.”

To begin, I firmly believe that no one is going to vote for Obama because the Collegian Editorial Board endorsed him. And I don’t think that The New York Times’ endorsement is going to be a gamechanger either.

However, our endorsement will promote (what I hope) is a civil, healthy discussion in our community surrounding the candidate’s positions during the final two days of this election season. I want to see people disagree and defend their positions, be it in support of or opposition to our decision today.

That’s the purpose of an opinion page.

In a story lambasting a college newspaper’s endorsement of Barack Obama, the Onion joked that a fictional newspaper used cliches like telling the nation’s 140 million likely voters that “the future is in (their) hands” and that “slogans won’t be enough this time around” to make a case for their candidate of choice.

The commentary on the newspaper’s self-importance hit a little bit too close to home. So we tried to do things differently. The Collegian wanted its endorsement to come from the perspective of a college student, talking about issues as they pertain to students.

Regardless, the whole notion of an endorsement will rightfully cause some people to ask how we can be objective in our news reporting if our editorial board supported a candidate.

Trust in the media is at an all-time low right now –– and rightfully so. The line between news and opinion at some publications has become so blurred that it might as well not exist.

I can guarantee you, however, that the content on our opinion page differs radically from our news content and that the process of creating them are very, very separate.

Our reporters were not involved in our discussion surrounding our endorsement, nor should they have been. Objectivity and balance continue to be our biggest goals — in any sort of coverage, not just the election.

In addition, our editorial board makes statements about the issues that we report on every day. We constantly take stances about things that our local and student governments are doing, all while doing our best to be as balanced as possible in our coverage. Yes, we have made mistakes, but I guarantee it’s not because we don’t value objectivity.

Let us know in our comments section if you agree or disagree with our endorsement, or if you think that we’re totally off base in writing one, period. And if you want to discuss anything, don’t hesitate to send me an email or find me on Twitter — if we’re going to do something as potentially controversial as making an endorsement, the least I can do as fall editor in chief is explain why.