June 01, 2020
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Why we endorse

If you’re reading this, you are no longer on the BDN’s news pages. Instead, you are in the Opinion section, a place where columnists take a side, local letter writers air their views and editorials and guest commentators debate the issues of the day. American newspapers have had opinion sections since the founding of the nation; the BDN has had an opinion section for more than 100 years.

The editorial writers at this and other newspapers stay out of the news business. We don’t assign news stories, sit in on news meetings, suggest coverage or direct reporters. In print, the opinion section sits on its own within the newspaper; online, opinion pieces are labeled as such.

This newspaper’s mission, as described on its first anniversary in 1890, calls on the BDN to “keep right on doing what it has done, standing up for the right and fighting the wrong, even if the right happens to be the underdog as is so apt to be the case, defending the downtrodden, and advocating with all its might for the best interests of Bangor and Eastern Maine.”

Until recently, this was not an especially controversial position. Newspapers stood up for, defended and advocated, and readers would agree or disagree, often letting us know why. But they understood that a lively, respectful debate on issues that mattered was a time-honored way for citizens to reach some kind of broadly understood, if sometimes temporary, consensus.

Those who disagreed were opponents, not enemies, who might be allies in some future debate. The two sides often had common goals, if very different visions for achieving them. These days, however, the nation is having a hard time with this distinction. It is particularly sensitive about political endorsements, which amount to an editorial opinion in which a newspaper rests its hopes on a politician who is likely to disappoint them eventually.

We endorse candidates because we have been given unusual access to them and we have the time to dig deeply into and challenge their ideas. We look out especially for candidates we believe will make Maine a stronger, happier, more resilient place to live. We do much the same with referendum issues. We welcome and publish commentary from people who have opposing views.

Readers can follow along and decide for themselves.

 


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