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Opinion

How Newsday’s editorial board decides whom to endorse

Newsday's editorial board.

Newsday's editorial board. Photo Credit: Amanda FIscina

Newsday’s editorial board writes daily on politics and policy, offering its opinion on the vast array of topics at the center of our civic dialogue.

Every election season, the board goes a step further and makes recommendations on individual candidates who would be the best public servants to lead, legislate or enforce those views. It’s a tradition of American newspapers, and one we seek to honor.

So just how do we make those endorsement decisions?

As you do, we weigh which candidate is better, compared with the other, in any given contest. We make our choices after interviewing the office seekers, researching and reporting. This year, we will have interviewed 69 candidates for 37 races on the ballot Nov. 8.

Political ideology is not a major factor in our consideration, although we tend to favor moderate views over extreme ones. And the degree to which a candidate agrees with Newsday’s long-standing editorial positions, though important, is not necessarily the determining factor. We want to support those who can best represent Long Island’s interests, even if they disagree with us on some issues.

Newsday is an independent newspaper, and endorsement decisions are not based on a candidate’s party affiliation. Nor are these choices influenced by our owners, who have not been involved in this process.

The 12-member editorial board is composed of the editors, writers, producers and cartoonist responsible for the “Editorial and Opinion” section in print and online. The co-publisher responsible for the section is a member of the board.

Newsday maintains a strict divide between its news and opinion journalism. Rita Ciolli, the editorial page editor, reports directly to Co-Publisher Edward Bushey, who does not oversee news. All of our editorials, essays, columns and cartoons, and even our letters to the editor, are labeled “Editorials” or “Opinion.” This separation of church and state is taken very seriously.

Reporters and editors on the newsgathering side of Newsday’s operation have nothing to do with endorsements. They are neither present at the candidates’ interviews nor involved in the board’s deliberations.

In April, we met with Hillary Clinton and interviewed Donald Trump by telephone. Since September, we have met with major-party candidates for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the State Legislature. Most often, the candidates are interviewed together and the on-the-record sessions are recorded.

Not including the presidential race, all 72 candidates in contested races were invited for interviews; five declined to meet with us. When a candidate runs unopposed, we do not endorse, regardless of his or her qualifications. We strongly believe in contested elections as an insurance policy on our democracy. Voters must have choices.

Candidates’ responses help guide our decisions but did not determine them. We consider the candidates’ command of the issues and how effective they are likely to be in office. For incumbents, we measure what they’ve accomplished. For challengers, we look at whatever experience and skills they would bring to the office, but more important, whether they have fresh ideas and a bipartisan bent.

In the board’s history, there have been numerous instances when Newsday endorsed a candidate one year and not in a subsequent election. That’s because we evaluate each race on its merits. There are contests in which both candidates are qualified, and we then choose the better of two good choices. But every now and then, the decision sometimes comes down to which is least mediocre.

Voters face tough choices, and we hope our voice, at least, offers quiet insight at a time when all there seems to be is shouting. At best, we hope to persuade you. We view endorsements as one of the board’s most important roles. Agree with us or not — and you certainly let us know when you don’t — we thank you for considering our views.

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