Skip Exercises in Editorial Masochism

By Williams, Ed | The Masthead, Spring 1993 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Skip Exercises in Editorial Masochism

Williams, Ed, The Masthead

SOME EDITORS MUST LOVE the political endorsement process. They interview dozens of candidates, hundreds, thousands even.

Like ultra-marathoners, they relish the grueling task. At the end they're aching and exhausted but proud. To them, the pay-off is worth the pain.

To me, it isn't. Over the years I have spent so many afternoons writhing in an ergonomically unsound chair interviewing candidates that at the sight of a sample ballot I feel back pains. In 1992, with the backing of editor Rich Oppel and publisher Rolfe Neill, I decided to try something different.

First, some history. Endorsement interviewing is particularly onerous here for three reasons:

1. North Carolina is a long-ballot state. North Carolina's founding fathers wanted every official to be directly responsible to the voters. These are the men, you will recall, who refused to ratify the U.S. Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights limiting the government's power. Most North Carolinians don't trust government much under any circumstances; the farther away it is, the less they trust it. (That's why North Carolina sends Jesse Helms to Washington.)

2. Not only does North Carolina elect a humongous number of officials, but it also allows them to serve only short terms -- for example, two years for the Charlotte mayor, city council, county commissioners, school board, legislative delegation, and a host of other offices. And somebody is up for election every year.

3. The down side of North Carolina's development as a two-party state is that now both Democrats and Republicans have an alarming number of party primaries.

Traditionally, our editorial board sought to interview every candidate on the Mecklenburg County ballot, from president to soil and water service commissioner. Some years that meant our four editorial writers interviewed more than 100 candidates. We spent so much time indoors interviewing candidates that by election day we had acquired a Siberian pallor.

I had come to consider it an exercise in editorial masochism.

Doing it meant that we spent afternoon upon afternoon sitting in my office asking similar questions to candidates who might or might not tell us in private the same thing they would tell voters in public. Not counting the toll it took on posture, that practice had two drawbacks: The drain on time and energy meant that many of our daily editorials during endorsement season were insufficiently researched and hastily written; and we missed the political campaign, so we either didn't comment on it or relied on secondhand impressions.

Time for self-examination

Our self-examination began with the fundamental question: Why are we doing this?

There were two reasons, we concluded. First, to get information we needed to make endorsement decisions. That, we decided, was sensible. Second, to persuade candidates of our fairness by engaging in an extensive conversation with each of them. The reward for that, we decided, was not worth the investment. Our interview-everybody policy meant we spent a lot of time with candidates we either knew we were going to endorse or knew we would not endorse in a race against Saddam Hussein.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Skip Exercises in Editorial Masochism


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?