On The Record: The Eagle decides to no longer endorse SG candidates

As a student newspaper, we must inform students, not influence their decisions

On The Record: The Eagle decides to no longer endorse SG candidates

As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, The Eagle is working hard to try to balance our coverage of the coronavirus with the regular happenings around campus this time of year. This includes how we are covering the Student Government elections. 

There are changes being made to how candidates run their campaigns in addition to logistical changes in the election process. One tradition that The Eagle has participated in each year is candidate endorsements. This year, we agreed as a staff to no longer choose a candidate for each executive position to endorse. 

This decision was made long before our staff was faced with the challenges presented by this pandemic, but we wanted to explain why we felt this change was necessary. 

On a broader scale, when a newspaper makes an endorsement of a political candidate, it is typically done by their editorial board. That group of people exists and functions separately from the people in the newsroom covering those candidates. 

However, as a student news organization, those lines are not as clearly delineated. Our editorial board, which collaborates on our weekly staff editorials, comprises our entire staff — news, life, sports and multimedia members. These individuals convene once a week to debate and discuss a story that we wish to publish a collective opinion on. 

Following that same practice, we invite each of the candidates running for an SG position to pitch themselves to our staff to choose an individual to endorse for the president, vice president, secretary and comptroller positions. We concluded we are no longer doing that after much thought and discussion. 

We believe that it is not the role of our editorial board to make those endorsements anymore. As stated in our ethics code, we already do not allow individual staff members to publicly endorse any SG candidates, whether it be by showing support on social media, signing petitions for the ballot or actively campaigning for a candidate. 

In a discussion earlier this semester, we decided to take that one step further and stop the endorsement process entirely. As there is less of a separation between who reports on Student Government and who is in the room when the endorsements happen, we don’t think it is responsible journalism. 

Endorsements typically serve as a way for a voting population to determine which candidate they would vote for. We felt that we would be doing a greater service to our audience by increasing our coverage of the candidates and SG elections as a whole, without the influence of our support. You can expect our coverage to continue as the campaigns progress. 

Additionally, students have greater access to candidates and their platforms than ever before. We hope that our reporting will offer the student body the ability to determine who they see fit for a given position. 

Ultimately for us at The Eagle, it boils down to independence. Although our endorsements in the past have not proven bias toward one candidate or another, we do not want the perception to be that our coverage favors specific individuals. We work exceptionally hard to provide fair and accurate reporting on all aspects of the University, including Student Government. The custom of endorsing candidates feels a bit antiquated, and we think it is time to move away from that practice. 

As always, readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor and op-eds if they seek to address concerns or offer feedback about our coverage. We additionally ask that you fill out this survey if there is anything you would like to specifically see addressed in this column.

news@theeagleonline.com 

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