A pledge to Nebraska voters

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nebraska voters were mistreated during the 2006 United States Senatorial campaign. Letters to the editor published in newspapers across the state expressed widespread disappointment at the low level of debate and unrelenting personal attacks that permeated the race.

Many voters were insulted and embarrassed that this could happen in our great state. Others felt so disenfranchised that they opted not to vote in the senatorial election as a way of registering their protest against the politics of personal destruction.

The modern-day campaign strategy that prescribes saturation of the airwaves with negative messages and overreaching promises has proven effective in past elections. However, the tide is turning and Americans are increasingly tuning out such messages and steering their support away from the candidates who attempt to exploit them.  As an unfortunate consequence, civic engagement is on the decline and the gap between the nation's ideals and political ambitions has widened.

The publishers of the state's major daily newspapers collectively believe that Nebraskans expect much more from their candidates.

Contemplative differences of opinion are valued and encouraged.  Honest, informed discussion of those differences can lead to common ground and rally rather than divide an increasingly skeptical and apathetic public.

As the candidates crisscross the state, your newspapers will be there to ask hard questions and offer balanced news coverage and opinion. This is the central role of the free press in the democratic process. Newspapers also serve as a vital conduit by which the public can actively participate in the process by writing letters and taking part in the conversation through newspaper Web sites.

Candidates must also believe in the importance of the free press, for they aggressively seek and covet newspaper coverage and endorsements. Though not all newspapers offer endorsements, a newspaper's editorial endorsement can often mean the difference between winning and losing a race or ballot measure.

This form of validation is so valued by politicians because they know that voters ultimately rely on the most trusted source of information available in the free world - professional journalism.

With this in mind; the daily newspapers of Nebraska call for all candidacies to respect the intelligence and discernment of voters by campaigning on substance rather than accusatory messages and vague promises.

We feel so strongly about the role of newspapers in the democratic process and the importance of an informed citizenry, we make this pledge to the voters of Nebraska;

"Before we extend any endorsement to any candidate, the tone and integrity of the individual campaigns will be fully considered and weighed along with their positions and qualifications for public office."

Nebraska voters are informed and fiercely independent. The values that have passed from generation to generation took root with the hardy forbearers who carved out an honorable and good life on the great prairie with a vision cast to the future.  They rightfully seek similar attributes in their elected leaders and in that spirit and out of respect to our readers we will honor our pledge.

Alliance Times-Herald,

Fred Kuhlman

Beatrice Daily Sun,

Ken Lingen

Columbus Telegram,

Bob Blackman

Fremont Tribune,

Bil Vobejda

Grand Island Independent,

Don Smith

Hastings Tribune,

Don Seaton

Holdrege Citizen,

Bob King

Kearney Hub,

Steve Chatelain

Lincoln Journal Star,

John Maher

McCook Daily Gazette,

Shary Skiles

Norfolk Daily News,

Jerry Huse

Scottsbluff Star-Herald,

Jim Holland

Sidney Sun-Telegraph,

Jim Orr

York News-Times,

Greg Awtry

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