I'm spending part of Thursday morning speaking to Boise State University's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. My lofty topic: "Reporting, Filtering or Shaping: The Role of the Media and Public Opinion."
That has me thinking about how our paper arrives at candidate endorsements — which we are rolling out, in advance of the Nov. 6 city elections.
We try to base our decisions on straightforward measures: the incumbents' voting record; the candidates' positions on issues we consider high priorities; the candidates' resumes and life experience. We try to keep personalities (and, in partisan elections, political affiliation) out of the equation.
I think the formula works: it enables us to explain who we support and why, so that if you disagree with us, you can still cast a more informed vote for the candidate who does suit your taste.
So here's my question: Should we consider what we learn about candidates through the process of endorsement interviews? Can we use that as a predictor of future behavior?
• When a candidate doesn't reply to e-mails about setting up an appointment, is it fair for us to wonder how committed the candidate is to elected service?
• When a candidate says it's hard to make time for an interview, citing a full-time job, is it fair to wonder whether the candidate can really put in the hours it takes to help run a city?
• When a candidate tries to set the ground rules for an interview — by requesting that all six editorial board members attend, and threatening not to show if the entire board doesn't show — is this a sign of someone who would be, if elected, a high-maintenance prima donna?
I've had all three issues arise during this year's city elections. I'm not naming names here, because I'm not sure what to do, if anything, with this anecdotal evidence.
What do you think? Should our observations from the "process" factor into our endorsement decisions? Should we endorse, but stick to tangible, substantive evidence? Or is this another sign that endorsements are doomed to be a subjective (and spurious) process?