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Think about this: Just vote

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/10/2014 (2172 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


In the very early days of analyzing media effects, Bernard Cohen suggested the media can't tell you what to think, but they can tell you what to think about.

Over the last several months, the Free Press has attempted to make you think about the municipal election. Columnists, reporters and the editorial board have spilled a lot of ink talking about the candidates, their policy positions and their foibles in the run-up to this Wednesday's vote.

Unlike civic elections in the recent past, 2014 was remarkable in that the push to get votes started long before the Labour Day long weekend.

Major policy pronouncements were unveiled early on, in the summer, perhaps because our temperatures made it appear we were in an early fall in July, or perhaps because with eight candidates (falling to seven after the official nomination date passed) vying for the mayor's job, campaign strategists made the decision to go hard and go early in their bid for voters' hearts.

While, indeed, the Free Press has provided you with options of what to think about in this election, there will be no move to tell you what to think. In short, there will be no editorial endorsement.

It's the new policy of this editorial board.

There are several reasons for this.

First, the idea of endorsing political candidates during an election is simply outdated. Many years ago, when newspapers moved beyond partisan press into the realm of objectivity (an ideal) and fairness (a practice), editorial endorsements were seen as a way for publishers and owners to still wield power by endorsing the candidate whose views most closely aligned with theirs. That is no longer the case.

Newsrooms are careful to ensure publishers and owners are not seen as being too heavily involved in their day-to-day operations. In fact, Bob Cox, the Free Press publisher, is seldom seen on the same floor as the editorial staff. This, by the way, is a good thing.

As well, endorsement editorials set up the perception newspapers are biased toward one individual or party over another. This is another reason why it will no longer be the practice at the Free Press.

Providing a diverse number of voices on the editorial pages has always been the focus, and now, with a new perspectives and politics editor in place, this is seen as a logical way of further invigorating the debates, with fresh perspectives.

The Free Press counts itself as a newspaper where telling you what to think about is the goal. The logical extension means the Free Press aims to tell you what the issues in this election are, but not whom to support.

There is no evidence editorial endorsements have any real effect, anyway. While research has been limited and has been mostly conducted in the United States, it would appear endorsements may be more about an editorial board's ego than effectiveness.

Indeed, in the one Canadian study, Carleton University Prof. Dwayne Winseck says endorsements in the 2011 federal election were out of step with public opinion, demonstrating "the tenacity and autonomy of the public mind. Our minds are not blank slates upon which editors stamp their views," he said in a piece published by the Canadian Journalism Project in its online magazine J-Source.

What we heartily endorse, however, is voting.

In the last municipal election in Winnipeg in 2010, 47 per cent of those eligible turned out to vote. That's an improvement from 38 per cent in 2006 and the hike was likely a result of making it easier for folks to vote early with advance polling stations being set up at shopping malls, universities and other public spaces in advance of the October date.

Let's hope history repeats itself.

So vote -- for whomever you think is best. Just vote.


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Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.


Updated on Monday, October 20, 2014 at 9:55 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.


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