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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Spokesman-Review to ditch endorsements after furious backlash to pro-Trump editorial

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.

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12 Comments

  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.

    # by Fred Yancey :: October 29th, 2020 at 5:58 AM
    • 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.

      # by Kathleen Huggins :: October 29th, 2020 at 1:51 PM
  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.

    # by Neal Penney :: October 29th, 2020 at 5:36 PM
  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.

    # by Daniel Ballard :: October 30th, 2020 at 7:24 AM
  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.

    # by Michael Jaquish :: October 30th, 2020 at 10:57 AM
  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.

    # by George Toulouse :: October 30th, 2020 at 1:04 PM
    • 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.

      # by Andrew Villeneuve :: November 1st, 2020 at 8:17 PM
  6. Did Cathy McMor­ris Rogers write that editorial?

    # by Jill Holbrook :: October 30th, 2020 at 2:24 PM
  7. 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.

    # by John Stella :: October 30th, 2020 at 6:01 PM
  8. 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.

    # by Lee I. :: October 31st, 2020 at 11:03 AM
    • Noth­ing about Don­ald Trump or the fanat­i­cal cult that enables him resem­bles the Amer­i­ca that intel­li­gent indi­vid­u­als should want, Lee.

      # by Andrew Villeneuve :: November 1st, 2020 at 8:21 PM
  9. 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.

    # by Betsy Zabora :: November 11th, 2020 at 2:58 PM