Every Wednesday for the past year, I reported for my non-paying job at The Post-Star as a citizen representative for the newspaper’s editorial board.
As a retiree I have accumulated several volunteer jobs, some more interesting or fulfilling than others, with the salary always the same. Time spent on the editorial board has to rank as the most fun, and only occasionally frustrating, gigs I have done.
In case the reader is wondering whether we always agree on our opinion, rest assured we do not. Part of the deal is that you have to go along with the majority opinion and sometimes Ken Tingley seems to get multiple votes; he would deny that.
Try as you may to get your name scrubbed on certain opinions, you are in for the good as well as the not-so-good. I really did not want my name attached to our pro-chicken coop stand in the city of Glens Falls. Surprisingly, we all agree on topics of significance far more than we disagree.
It is interesting to read the letters to the editor accusing the paper of being too liberal, only to be followed by letters calling them too conservative or too partisan. My takeaway after spending an hour each week for a year with the paper’s management is that they try to find what is “right” or what is “wrong” in any given situation.
Their criticism or “attaboys” are strictly non-partisan. I would be hard pressed to guess what any of their party affiliations might be, with one possible exception. Will Doolittle, who is ultra bright, very well read and wears his heart on his sleeve, might be a Democrat or maybe even a Green Party guy. Could be an Independent. He is most likely not a Conservative. The others? I have no idea. Maybe they are unaffiliated.
I was very fortunate to be on the board for an interesting election year. As a member of the editorial board, I had the privilege of gathering around the conference table to participate in interviewing every candidate who chose to show up for an hour of questioning.
Much to my surprise, almost all of them were articulate, well informed and mostly responsive to what I would like to think were our probing questions. It did seem that some of the incumbents were more artful in dodging tougher inquiries.
The newcomers with no baggage seemed more open. We had only one candidate who we all agreed was painfully unqualified for the position they were seeking. Their opponent was not only favored by our board but was considered a rising star.
To everyone’s shock, the “loser” was the winner after the votes were counted. It wasn’t even close. I was totally deflated. In my mind, there was no way this person should have gotten any votes beyond their immediate family if the electorate had the opportunity, as we did, to talk with this candidate.
I thought of how often I have voted for a particular name when I had little idea whether they were qualified. I promised myself I would always try to attend debates and make a sincere effort to know the candidates.
In a perfect world, we would all have the opportunity to sit around a table and chat with them before we decide. Some readers have questioned why The Post-Star should endorse anyone, assuming it is a form of arrogance.
In almost all cases, the board was unanimous in its opinion of who was the better choice. I think the paper does a service in vetting these candidates and rendering an opinion since the reader rarely has the same opportunity to help mold their decision. When our vote is taken to endorse a candidate, no one has a finger on the scale. It is everyone’s best opinion.
Our current administration seems to have coined the “fake news” moniker aimed not at some social media sites that do circulate false or partial truths, but to describe mainstream newspapers and respected media sources.
In a tight deadline business, errors can be made with time limited. However, respected papers print corrections. All they have to stand on is their integrity.
It is no secret that print news is struggling since too many people prefer to get their news in sound bites from the internet. I feel that the local newspapers are the backbone of a community. Try to imagine governments operating without the vigilant oversight of the press — no watchdogs, no reporting on how our tax dollars are being allocated.
The press tells us what is happening in the world, the country, our community, our schools, what team won, who got married and who died. When someone tells me they don’t read their local paper, I think they are not engaged in their community and probably are poor citizens. Of course if you are reading this, I’m preaching to the choir.
The next time Ken Tingley puts out a call for new people to apply to become citizen representatives of the editorial board, raise your hand. You will not regret it.
Carol Merchant is a retired financial services consultant/investment broker who lives in Queensbury and just completed serving a year-long term on The Post-Star’s editorial board. It will be looking for volunteers to serve again in the spring.