The Mail Tribune Editorial Board has been accused of many things. Leaning too far left. Leaning too far right. Being in the pockets of _____________ (fill in the blank. Choices range from the Chamber of Commerce to Satan himself). Kowtowing to the paper’s various owners over the years. Being just too stupid to know when to crawl off and die.
Hot issues trigger hot collars, but editors at the Mail Tribune have been jumping into the fray since the paper was founded 111 years ago. While the Mail Tribune strives to be as balanced as possible on our news pages, exploring multiple sides of each issue, we aim to make bold, pointed pronouncements on our editorial pages, backed up by our reporting and research.
As you can imagine, this does not often make many friends.
We’ve been asked many times how we form these opinions. Who writes the editorials? Why aren’t they signed? Do our corporate owners dictate what we say or what issues we weigh in on? And we’re happy to answer these questions.
The members of the board are Publisher Grady Singletary, Associate Editor Bob Hunter, Editorial Page Editor Gary Nelson, Daily Tidings Editor Bert Etling and myself. (The Editorial Boards of both the Mail Tribune and Daily Tidings are the same.)
We are all unaffiliated registered voters. We all have our own opinions. We don’t always agree. After hashing out the pros and cons, we vote and come to a consensus we all can live with. Even Grady, who has veto power as the publisher, accepts the will of the majority. This is why editorials aren’t signed, because they represent the view of the board, not one single member.
Nearly all are written by Gary, using key points raised by the Editorial Board. Nelson has won numerous awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and Society of Professional Journalists and, unbeknownst to many, plays a pretty mean trombone when he’s not ticking people off making pronouncements on the board’s behalf.
For as many races as possible, Nelson and at least one other board member interview all the candidates for a particular position together in one room before the board decides whom to endorse. After attending most of these interviews over the last few weeks, I found them to be quite illuminating. The candidates who were best informed, had good ideas and were able to listen to others’ opinions surfaced quickly. Sometimes it was tough to make a choice (so tough for the assessor’s race, in fact, we ran a rare editorial advising voters either would do well).
The presidential race was a different nut altogether (pun intended). As it’s impossible to talk to either of the major party candidates, let alone get them both in the Mail Tribune conference room, the board had decided in 2012 it wasn’t going to do presidential endorsements any longer. What could we possibly say that hasn’t been said ad nauseam by the national media, including our own syndicated columnists?
Then along came Trump (see Gary’s Tuesday editorial).
In our entire history, through many changes of ownership (including a brief stint with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.), we never once have been told what to write or whom to endorse. There is no corporate policy on editorials. Just five journalists in a room, every Tuesday at 2 p.m., hammering out the paper’s positions for the week ahead.
We believe the Editorial Page is a crucial part of a newspaper’s job in a democracy such as ours to keep voters informed so they, in turn, make informed decisions.
If you agree with us, great. If you wish we’d just crawl off and die, that’s OK, too. Either way, let us know, will you? Letters to the editor may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.