Spokesman Review Building
The Spokesman-Review Building in Spokane, in 1993 (Photo: Robert Ashworth)

A few days ago, on the orders of its pub­lish­er Stacey Cowles, the Spokesman-Review of Spokane pub­lished an unsigned edi­to­r­i­al inex­plic­a­bly urg­ing its read­ers to back Don­ald Trump for reelection.

“Don­ald Trump is a bul­ly and a big­ot. He is symp­to­matic of a widen­ing par­ti­san divide in the coun­try. We rec­om­mend vot­ing for him any­way because the poli­cies that Joe Biden and his pro­gres­sive sup­port­ers would impose on the nation would be worse,” the Cowles-ordered Trump endorse­ment began.

That’s right: Stacey Cowles would rather keep slid­ing right on down the hill towards fas­cist oli­garchy than elect a Pres­i­dent who wants to pro­tect peo­ple’s health­care, right to breathe clean air, abil­i­ty to go to col­lege, take care of fam­i­ly mem­bers in their old age, and restore Amer­i­ca’s stand­ing in the world.

Cowles’ insis­tence on endors­ing Trump has pre­dictably inflict­ed tremen­dous dam­age on the cred­i­bil­i­ty and rep­u­ta­tion of the paper his fam­i­ly owns.

So much so, in fact, that the paper’s edi­tor Rob Cur­ley has announced that he has con­vinced Cowles to end the prac­tice of run­ning unsigned edi­to­ri­als and do away with endorse­ments of can­di­dates for elect­ed office.

Here’s Cur­ley:

With those words sim­ply attrib­uted to The Spokesman-Review, it became clear things should be dif­fer­ent from here on out. There are some news­pa­per tra­di­tions we shouldn’t just be OK dump­ing, we should open­ly embrace throw­ing them out as out­dat­ed relics.

The irony is that I had pitched this idea to our pub­lish­er a few years ago on a road­trip to a news­pa­per conference.

The idea was remark­ably sim­ple: If we give our read­ers the facts, we don’t have to tell them what to think. They can come to their own con­clu­sions. There are some things that we should be OK telling our read­ers, because we’ve giv­en them the facts.

Instead, we’d focus on the things that only we can give you, because we live here. We’d also make the edi­to­r­i­al pages much more about our community’s thoughts – a mir­ror that reflect­ed itself – mean­ing more let­ters and columns from peo­ple who live here.

And when we did write about our opin­ions, we would always say whose opin­ion that is. The point was that our opin­ions real­ly should be from our com­mu­ni­ty and we should con­tin­ue to throw out tra­di­tions like unsigned edi­to­ri­als. When you get rid of the things that no longer mat­ter, you can zero in on the things that are essential.

Get­ting bet­ter isn’t just about what you do, but about what you don’t do. So we are no longer run­ning unsigned edi­to­ri­als and we are drop­ping endorsements.

Empha­sis is mine.

This announce­ment is proof that good can come out of bad.

Sta­cy Cowles’ deci­sion to pub­lish an endorse­ment of Don­ald Trump showed fright­en­ing­ly poor judg­ment and a lack of empathy.

But it has prompt­ed an impor­tant pol­i­cy change at the Spokesman-Review: No more unsigned edi­to­ri­als. And no more endorse­ments, either.

Our team hearti­ly wel­comes these devel­op­ments, and we urge The Seat­tle Times and oth­er news­pa­pers in Wash­ing­ton State to fol­low suit.

When you’re in the habit of almost uni­ver­sal­ly rec­om­mend­ing that incum­bents be reelect­ed due to their expe­ri­ence (as most of Wash­ing­ton State’s edi­to­r­i­al boards are) you’re not pro­vid­ing much of a ser­vice… not even to peo­ple who go by the mantra of “I vote for the per­son, not the party.”

A far more sen­si­ble prac­tice is to cre­ate edi­to­r­i­al space for read­ers to talk about who they are sup­port­ing for pub­lic office (and why) through let­ters to the edi­tor. The Columbian, out of Van­cou­ver, cur­rent­ly does a real­ly good job of this.

The Spokesman-Review’s new poli­cies mir­ror our long held prac­tices here at NPI. All of the long form pieces we pub­lish here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate are signed (like this post) and we do not endorse can­di­dates for pub­lic office.

We do take posi­tions on bal­lot mea­sures because we are a research and advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion that works to turn ideas our region and coun­try needs into laws.

But we do not endorse can­di­dates or engage in elec­tion­eer­ing for or against can­di­dates. Rather, NPI uses its pub­li­ca­tions to look at con­tests for pub­lic office through a research and advo­ca­cy focused jour­nal­ism lens.

Our region’s remain­ing news­pa­pers have a cru­cial role to play in pro­mot­ing civic health and keep­ing peo­ple well informed. We want them to be as pros­per­ous and suc­cess­ful as pos­si­ble. We believe that dump­ing unsigned edi­to­ri­als and can­di­date endorse­ments in favor of cre­at­ing a space where read­ers can express well-word­ed opin­ions that abide by high stan­dards for civic dis­course would encour­age more peo­ple to sub­scribe and sup­port the news­rooms that our news­pa­pers operate.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to the Spokesman-Review for get­ting the par­ty start­ed. Here’s hop­ing more of our news­pa­pers jump on the bandwagon.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

12 replies on “Spokesman-Review to ditch endorsements after furious backlash to pro-Trump editorial”

  1. The dam­age has been done already by the pub­lish­ing of the endorse­ment of Trump even while acknowl­edg­ing Trump’s major moral fail­ings. Where is the apol­o­gy from the paper? The retrac­tion? The recog­ni­tion of their error? A paper can and should endorse can­di­dates pro­vid­ing one mea­sure of Infor­ma­tion upon which a read­er can reflect. But to elim­i­nate this prac­tice and think that this act makes up for the Trump sup­port is ludi­crous. Even the SEATTLE TIMES as staid as it is would nev­er make such an absurd argu­ment and that’s say­ing a lot.

    1. I absolute­ly agree with this com­ment. Severe dam­age to the paper’s cred­i­bil­i­ty has been done, and pleas to con­tin­ue sup­port­ing it by those who work there are not enough to make me rein­state my sub­scrip­tion. It must have caused a num­ber of can­ce­la­tions, because I’m get­ting bom­bard­ed by employ­ees and the man­ag­ing edi­tor to recon­sid­er. But until there is a full retrac­tion of the endorse­ment and a state­ment by Cowles him­self that he was wrong, I can’t con­sid­er sub­scrib­ing again. I would pre­fer to see Cowles com­plete­ly removed from all oper­a­tions of the paper. Bet­ter yet, let the employ­ees take own­er­ship and step aside all togeth­er. He is a dis­grace to Spokane, car­ing on the lega­cy of his forbears.

  2. First of all; for Mr. Cowles to pref­ace the papers polit­i­cal endorse­ment of the black cloud that is Don­ald Trump with some of his more glar­ing moral, eth­i­cal, ego­tis­ti­cal and so many oth­er ques­tion­able short­com­ings and then sup­port him for the office any­way, is irre­spon­si­ble in the extreme. As long as I have read this paper and while I have appre­ci­at­ed many of its stronger parts, I have been ever mys­ti­fied by the Cowles’ peri­od­ic insis­tence on this offen­sive activ­i­ty by attempt­ing to sub­sti­tute their opin­ion for all of ours. Why not report the news as it is and let us all decide what we need to do? If you are try­ing to main­tain this most­ly good paper, this does not seem the way. My pref­er­ence and sug­ges­tion is to hand the paper’s reins back to Rob Cur­ley where they belong, and who has cer­tain­ly earned our respect. Addi­tion­al­ly, I have a great appre­ci­a­tion for Shawn Vestal and his coura­geous writ­ing on dif­fi­cult sub­jects. His man­date is a dif­fi­cult one, but he does it well.

  3. Sor­ry, but I have to dis­agree with you here, NPI — I firm­ly believe endorse­ments by news­pa­pers pro­vide an impor­tant ser­vice. Some­times, like in the case of the Seat­tle Times, that ser­vice is pure­ly neg­a­tive, as in I read it just to see who NOT to vote for or against! I do agree that unsigned edi­to­ri­als should be aban­doned; forty years ago, when I was a pro­fes­sion­al news­pa­per writer and edi­tor in Texas, get­ting the (unsigned) tablets hand­ed down from on high with the “run this ver­ba­tim” edict was always a moment of dread and shame. If you’re going to plas­ter your wing-nut opin­ion all over the paper, at least have the courage to sign it.

  4. Wow!

    When I read the unat­trib­uted op-ed in the Spokesman endors­ing Don­ald Trump in spite of a long list of rea­sons why any ratio­nal, patri­ot­ic Amer­i­can should NOT endorse him… I was floored. My ini­tial reac­tion was, the Spokesman Review just admit­ted pub­licly that it is a right-wing rag that total­ly fails to reflect the hearts and minds of all Spokane cit­i­zens. I decid­ed right then I would NEVER pur­chase anoth­er sub­scrip­tion to this news­pa­per. The open apol­o­gy from Rob Cur­ley is encour­ag­ing, but too lit­tle, too late because the dam­age has been done.

  5. While I do not agree with this endorse­ment there are many who did or do. One person’s opin­ion or endorse­ment will not alter my view­point. What angers me, is that only those opposed have been quot­ed here and no sup­port­ers. Is Spokane so anti-Trump that no one in the Inland Empire will vote for him? Yes, edi­to­ri­als should be signed and assigned, but don’t stop mak­ing them just for the ben­e­fit of some indi­vid­u­als who disagree.

    1. Every­thing we pub­lish here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is sub­jec­tive and opin­ion­at­ed, George, so you won’t always see “both sides” quot­ed. There’s plen­ty of right wing media out there car­ry­ing that per­spec­tive. This pub­li­ca­tion is the voice of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s staff, board, and con­trib­u­tors, and you can expect that the analy­sis and com­men­tary you’ll find here will always be root­ed in pro­gres­sive values.

  6. I appre­ci­ate read­ing endorse­ments when there is a ratio­nale with them, but when you tell all the rea­sons not to vote for Trump and then endorse him for only one rea­son, that’s just stupid.

  7. Good grief! I guess free speech is only tol­er­at­ed from those who endorse lib­er­al can­di­dates because oth­er view­points are only from “deplorables and chumps.” What a sad state of affairs when lib­er­als can intim­i­date and silence an opin­ion from the oth­er side. This is not the Amer­i­ca that intel­li­gent indi­vid­u­als should want.

    1. Noth­ing about Don­ald Trump or the fanat­i­cal cult that enables him resem­bles the Amer­i­ca that intel­li­gent indi­vid­u­als should want, Lee.

  8. My first incli­na­tion after read­ing SR’s Trump endorse­ment was to can­cel my sub­scrip­tion. I gave myself a week to think it over, though, to see if it was just a knee-jerk reac­tion. After all, I’ve sup­port­ed SR for 25 years now. After read­ing the fol­low­ing Sun­day’s opin­ion page, though, I had enough. I absolute­ly can­not sup­port Stacey Cowle’s posi­tion and will not put mon­ey in his pock­et, regard­less of what the rest of his staff have to say. I can­celed my sub­scrip­tion and made sure they under­stood exact­ly why.

Comments are closed.