WatchSonoma Watch

PD to stop endorsing political candidates

On Sunday, The Press Democrat announced it will no longer endorse candidates for political office. The change results from a company-wide policy adopted by Halifax Media Group, which acquired The Press Democrat in January. A copy of the editorial announcing the shift is attached below. What do you think about the change? Does this alter the way you look at the newspaper and its coverage of political issues?


PD Editorial: A change in policy on elections

Although candidates have been knocking on doors for weeks, Labor Day weekend is traditionally considered the start of election season, the point where voters begin making up their minds about how they will cast their votes come November.

Given that, we felt this was the right time to inform readers about a policy change here at this newspaper. Beginning with this election, The Press Democrat will no longer endorse candidates for elected office.

The role of newspaper endorsements has been debated in political and journalism circles for some time, never more so than in these times of deep partisan divisions. Many newspapers have chosen to scale back endorsements or eliminate them entirely.

The Oregonian recently told readers that it would not make an endorsement in this year’s presidential race. The Chicago Sun-Times announced in January that it would stop recommending candidates, noting, “our goal … is to inform and influence your thinking, not tell you what to do.”

These changes are founded on the belief that endorsements fuel a perception that newspapers are biased, and the best solution is for newspapers to stick to what they do best — giving readers the information they need to make decisions for themselves.

Halifax Media Group, which acquired The Press Democrat in January, has had a no-endorsement practice for its flagship paper in Daytona Beach, Fla. The company has now decided to adopt this policy for all of its member newspapers, including The Press Democrat.

For most of these publications, it will mean no change. The majority of these newspapers, including some that were previously part of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group along with The Press Democrat, already had removed political endorsements from their list of editorial offerings. We were one of those that still offered recommendations on candidates.

But our emphasis today is not just on what will be different with this election cycle. We want to be clear about what will not change. For example, The Press Democrat will continue to take editorial positions on local ballot measures and state propositions. In fact, we have already issued recommendations on two of the 11 propositions on the Nov. 6 state ballot. For those who miss them, these editorials will continue to be posted on PressDemocrat.com. In keeping with tradition, we also will publish a list of these recommendations as we draw nearer to the election.

In addition, we will continue to offer election-related commentary on our opinion pages and continue, through editorials, columns and blog items, to offer ongoing analysis of political campaigns and candidates, although no individual candidate will end up with our full support or endorsement.

Finally, what will not change is this newspaper’s commitment to providing authoritative news coverage of North Coast politics and this upcoming election. Readers can continue to expect reporting on individual candidates, election forums and other campaign news that makes us the most comprehensive source for local political news.

As many readers know, those who write opinions and those who write news stories operate separately within The Press Democrat. Our departments are not even on the same floor. The Press Democrat’s hope, however, is that this change in policy will make clear that we are all coming from the same place — a desire to give readers the information they need to make their own choices.

29 Responses to “PD to stop endorsing political candidates”

  1. Thomas Richard Reynolds says:

    I did Not post comments here I am not The Tom Reynolds on this site

  2. Don Neece says:

    After running for office several years back I got a good taste of the PD group. I was labeled a “business candidate” and all the comments on the upcoming election were from a council person (Debbie) that was not even running for reelection. The folks that I was running against never had to make one comment in the paper. Debbie did all the talking that year and her group of candidates were elected.
    When I was in front of the PD board all they could ask me were questions that were about putting a Costco in Windsor? What? We never spoke about any of the issues that were facing the town. The following day in the paper I was listed as one of the last candidates on the page and all they wrote about was Costco!
    Has anyone noticed that in Windsor and RP that they were able to cancel their elections. No one ran against the machine that is in place knowing that it is a waste of time and money! The political consultants know how to pick that will make it to the goal line.
    The whole process is rigged!

  3. Wilson says:

    Sonoma Citizen –

    Good call. Everything that you mentioned happened after the new owners took over at the PD.

    The reporting on the pension scandal is a good and significant change. But none of the people who put those policies in place are still in office. They are all basking in their fat pensions and are basically untouchable as their actions, although sociopathic, were legal. Real reporting on this won’t do any current PD politicians any harm so that’s why we have it.

    However, the boondoggle-waiting-to-happen Sonoma Clean Power is in the lap of the current Board of Stupidvisors. The PD won’t upset that apple cart. The Casino is a state issue. Allen and Huffman are PD boys and will never see honest criticism in these pages.

  4. Graeme Wellington says:

    What about ballot propositions? I’d like to see information like this in the Press Democrat pages analyzing the propositions:


  5. Sonoma Citizen says:

    Wilson: ccan you offer an explanation for the PD’s excellent work on exposing the County pension scandal; while the PD is,at the same time, systematically, knowingly, involved in spin-doctoring the sordid background on the casino and Sonoma Clean Power?

  6. Vinyl Rules says:

    Good riddance!

  7. GAJ says:


    I agree, the “no tax” pledge is insane.

    Our generation has run up such a huge bill by underfunding social programs it’s about time we started to pay it AND drastically change the programs.

  8. Skippy says:

    “HINT: The “no tax” pledge is asinine.”

    You’re right.
    Most folks are just waiting for their politicians to endorse higher taxes so they can vote for them.
    Americans believe Big Govt is their Sugar Daddy and want to give them more tax money to spend wisely.
    They see Republicans efforts to allow folks to keep more of what they earn as selfish and cruel.
    Only when all income is regulated by and filtered through Big Govt will Americans truly be free.

    (sarc off)

  9. Juvenal says:

    I sense a great deal of anger that the GOP has not come up with anything to interest the people of California. Don’t blame the Press Democrat; and don’t blame the Democrats for having superior ideas and being more effective campaigners.

    HINT: The “no tax” pledge is asinine.

  10. Tom Reynolds says:

    Now if only the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce stops endorsements as well. No good comes of this other than to upset valuable members.

  11. Wilson says:

    “Jerry”, “Not Always True Graeme” and “Sonoma Citizen” are 100% right. The real political voice of the PD is quite conservative and has been for years.

    Sometime in the 1980′s, the powers that be decided that the PD would be political power brokers. From that time forward, all news of a political bent was geared towards promoting the elected officials (or candidates) whose policies cater to rich and/or conservative land and business owners in the county. Any Democrat with a Liberal or Progressive or honestly protecting the people agenda found their qualifications and accomplishments buried and any little faux pas blown up to mountainous proportions. Their Conservative opponents found their meager accomplishments puffed up and embellished while anything negative about them is forgotten. Just look at the race between David Rabbit and Pamela Torliatt for Supervisor two years ago for proof positive.

    True Republicans simply cannot get elected to a partisan seat in the North Bay. So they either register as Democrats anyway (DINO – Democrat In Name Only) or go for non-partisan seats such as city councils and our beloved Board of Stupidvisors. The PD threw the political party card away often when it suited their cause, leaving most of the public painfully uninformed. The result is a major reason that our cities and the county itself is in the economic mess that its in.

    I will miss the PD’s endorsements the same as Jerry here on this comment board. I would often tell people “Look at the PD’s recommendations and vote the opposite. You can’t go wrong if you want to support the people.” My guess is that they will still twist the truth in their articles on candidates hoping to keep the political status quo that they promoted in place. Enjoy it while you can. The new owners will be notified of one-sided reporting and they will act if they stand by their word.

    I only want the PD to print the whole truth about candidates, their qualifications, accomplishments, endorsers and actions. I want them to blow the lids off of those phony IEC’s and their muckraking. Is that too much to ask?

    And give me a thumbs down if the truth hurts.

  12. Kim says:

    I can’t remember a tax ballot measure that the PD didn’t endorse….on the oterhand there HAVE bee non-Democrats that the paper did, in fact, endorse. They certainly didn’t endorse Bustamonte in his last run for public office.

    In reference to the endorsements of candidates of non-Democrats running for office in Petaluma, although we can figure out with wich side of the isle any candidate leans…..the elections are non-partison.

    I too used the PD’s endorsements as a guideline, just as I use the endorsements of the CTA and others of their ilk….I vote the opposite way ;-)

  13. Over Easy says:

    This means nothing. The PD will continue its selective reporting and liberal spin.

    After all it sells papers, bottom line.

    Replace the writing staff and you will have done something.

  14. Not Always True Graeme says:

    In the 2010 Mayor and Council race in Petaluma, they only endorsed one Democrat. All the others they endorsed in that race are Republicans..see below

  15. Sarkyfish says:

    “As many readers know, those who write opinions and those who write news stories operate separately within The Press Democrat. Our departments are not even on the same floor.” Yes, but to get through the front door all must be card carrying progressives, and we promise on our lives that there never will be any conservative voice in the pages of the Press Democrat.

  16. Que Sera says:

    The PD endorsement of candidates was never any different that the list of Democrats running!

  17. G4 says:

    I hope the PD just follows the old adage,”just the facts, ma’am.” The majority of the readers do not need to be influenced by the wit and wisdom of the PD editorial staff.

    We all know their proclivities,left as far as the eye can see, so just present the facts and be done with it. Better reading and more intellectual.

    Will the paper do this? No. Their political left leanings will get in the way as they always do.

    With the state of the newspaper business here in these United States, the owners have to try something else because they have no options and time is running out on a rapidly falling readership. Change was forced up the Press Democrat by the owners. The paper would have never done it on its own.

  18. Michael Sheehan says:

    This changes nothing. Anyone who relied on the PD editors to tell them who to support should be banned from voting.

    Now start telling the truth about who Obama actually is, not the fairytales. Investigate, instead of spouting party line talking point propaganda.

  19. sonoma citizen says:

    There’s nothing wrong with a community newspaper having a clear point of view; nor in translating that point of view into a coherent endorsement policy. The problem with the Press Democrat isn’t explicit endorsement of political candidates; it’s implicit endorsement of unethical behavior by the Board of Supervisors, the Water Agency–as political paymaster for the Supervisors–of County Counsel’s and County Auditor/Controllers’ unerring complicity in the County’s pillaging by insiders. The Press Democrat lends its implicit endorsement to the County’s patronage and spoils system by pretending, when it comes to big investments, that the County is run on the up and up. The County of Sonoma isn’t run on the up and up; it’s run on the down low. The Press Democrat has betrayed its public service mission by ceasing to act as the Fourth Estate; by ceasing to serve as the community’s counterbalance to self serving interests who’ve long dominated the County Supervisors and big ticket budget areas like the Water Agency. The Press Democrat has done a good job on pensions but has looked the other way on the mounting scandal of insider influence on the casino and the unfolding saga of Sonoma Clean Power, the Water Agency’s billion dollar credit card charged to the taxpayers. The County of Sonoma may be the most systemically corrupt and misgoverned county in California. When the tale is finally told–by national media, by independent investigators–one of the story’s most stunning headlines will be how the PD knew exactly what was going on in County government and chose not to report it. The story will be about the story the PD didn’t report when the County, the State, and the whole country most needed an independent press.

  20. Reality Check says:

    With newspapers facing perilous times, I can understand a decision to not risk offending any single subscriber. But, really, why have an editorial page if editors can’t take sides on issues and candidates?

    You risk more by pursuing the false god of objectivity. Newspapers aren’t objective; none of us are. This unwillingness to boldly state your views risks a descent into blandness, which will surely diminish the value of newspapers. Web sites are booming, with the most opinionated the most successful.

  21. ArthurAndrew says:

    Why are Republicans reading a paper called the Press Democrat anyway? Santa Rosa used to have a paper for you all back in the 20′s called the S.R. Republican. Catchy name right? But well it kind of dwindled after the Great Depression being that it supported most of the policies that caused it. Now this paper has gone so far right you should be happy. Doesn’t the title kind of say it all to you though? You would think that you would get it; its really simple if you think about it; or maybe; oops their I go again I forgot your Republicans and your not supposed to think.

  22. R.B. Fish says:

    OMG. This is scary. Real objective journalism. Have Golis, Cournsey, Gullison, Sweeney all have a Starbucks over this? Have the BOS approved? What about the SEIU? Arwe the illegal aliens OK with this?

    Readers and posters beware. It could be a smoke screen. The mother company knows Soco is changing and this could be a notification letter.

    Let’s see.

  23. Snarky says:

    I knew something good would come out of new ownership.

    The detailed, in depth article published just recently on public pensions was the first hint. That article was researched and published despite the “push back” by local government employees right here on this board.

    If the Press Democrat had a history of neutral publishing, it wouldn’t have been a needed change. But, alas, the Press Demo has always had a serious reputation for playing only one side of the fence.

  24. Jim Bennett says:

    Wow, ‘gonna stop accepting propaganda ‘stories’ from an ICLEI liason too?

  25. Jerry says:

    I will miss the PD’s recommendations. I found them to be a handy guide and I could never go wrong voting just the opposite the recommendations. What to do now??

  26. David J. Spencer says:

    The P.D. quotes the Chicago Sun-Times as saying “Our goal…is to inform and influence your thinking, not tell you what to do” as if that quote also represented the P.D.’s thinking.


    So, pray tell, what is the difference between the two: 1). Influencing the readers’ thinking. 2). telling the reader what to do.

  27. Graeme Wellington says:

    The endorsements were straight Democrat or most liberal party line anyway so was there really any point?

    It’s a baby step at least. Now, the Press Democrat has got to get objective on ALL the news stories instead of liberal party line on absolutely every thing.

    How about going back to objective journalism? It could save the paper.

  28. Steveguy says:

    Maybe they saw that the PD endorsed Noreen Evans, and had to be the grown-up.

  29. Skippy says:

    Swell idea. PD endorsements have been a joke for decades. I cannot recall a single endorsement of a Republican ever.
    I hope you will do the same for ballot propositions.
    In the past, every bond issue or Big Govt spending of any type for any reason has been always supported.
    Hint: that’s how we got in this economic fix. Democrat legislators and profligate spending.
    Are we learning yet?