Editor’s note: Roy Ockert is former editor of The Jonesboro Sun, The Courier at Russellville and the Bateville Daily Guard. He is an independent columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The following is an excerpt from one of his latest columns.
In nearly 30 years as the editor of three Arkansas daily newspapers, including most recently The Jonesboro Sun, I never endorsed a political candidate. That was not my publisher’s policy but rather my choice as editor.
I was always a “hands-on” editor who presided over news meetings and influenced news coverage; these were newspapers with comparatively small staffs and no separate editorial page editor. Taking sides in a political campaign could give the perception of bias, even within our own staff, and divert us from what’s most important — covering the news.
I have no beef with bigger newspapers like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which has an editorial page staff completely separate from its news department, that endorse candidates. It’s their right.
However, those endorsements grate on some readers and provide ammunition that the newspaper isn’t fair, whether it is or not. I would also question their effectiveness. Newspapers are notoriously bad in picking winners, and some people will vote against a candidate because of an endorsement.
As an editor, I was sometimes accused of being too liberal, sometimes too conservative — both of which I took as a compliment because I consider myself a moderate. Unlike PBS veteran Jim Lehrer, the presidential debate moderator, I have always done my civic duty and voted.
Now as a retired editor and occasional columnist, I can offer opinions without affecting my former newspaper or its staff. A vote, after all, is strictly an opinion, and that’s what a columnist is supposed to provide.
So, for whatever it’s worth, below is my ballot, as it stands today, and some reasoning. Because I love the experience of going to the polls on election day, I’ll reserve the right to change any vote until then.
Read Roy’s picks and logic at this link.