My father was in town last weekend helping his mother clean out years of stockpiled archives, paperwork, mail and other detritus. My grandmother has some pack-rat tendencies that I’d like to think are not genetic, though looking across my desk this evening makes me wonder.
One “find” was a souvenir bookmark which, before sending it to the shredder, my dad wanted to milk a laugh out of. It’s a beige piece of stock paper with clip art with a Gore Vidal quote below: “Half the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for president. One hopes it’s the same half.”
This particular bookmark was printed in 1998 for an 80th birthday and the writer Vidal made the statement, or at least a version of it, in a 1992 book. Neither, it can safely be assumed, had any idea of the online world that would arrive to make the quote even more biting. The number of Americans who read a newspaper has declined considerably since, the amount of political gossip passed on as news has increased, and mudslinging advertising and sound-bite tit-for-tat in the media seem to elbow out the info that actually helps you make an informed choice.
Vidal, who can fairly be called pessimist where modern politics are concerned, would ratchet down his percentages if he made the same quote today.
But I’m not writing to wring my hands over politics or the media. Our newspaper is still in the business of helping you learn more about local elections, and that’s what we’re going to set a table full of over the coming weeks. We’ve got a primary a month away, after all.
The idea is to give you information about local candidates and races as close as possible to the time when ballots are mailed out. So beginning Wednesday we’ll be running profiles of candidates in all local races that will be contested Aug. 7, including legislative races, judicial races, Congressional races, the county commissioner seat up for grabs and the Bremerton levy measure on the ballot. We’ll also publish the candidates in their own words — or at least as many words that fit — drawing from our Ask the Candidates election guide, which you can find at elections.kitsapsun.com.
Speaking of the online election guide, I’d invite you to visit the site. We’ve redesigned the look for better navigation, asked all candidates to fill out biographical information and answer questions specific to their races, and we’re posting video interviews our editorial board has done. We’ll keep those going through the fall, so stay tuned for more. I introduce each editorial meeting by telling the candidates that our videos are intended as a further resources for voters to watch, so don’t let me be a liar.
Those video interviews are essentially an inside look at our editorial board’s endorsement process, though we do any deliberations off camera. The other point I make before each interview is my hope that by offering you a look at our conversation with candidates, our board of four Sun staff members and five community members is more transparent than editorial boards have historically been. You may disagree with our endorsements — which will begin publishing on Sunday, July 22 — but now you can see the same conversation our board in part based the decision upon.
The quote I began with is about the presidential election, but I’ve always thought that the municipal court judge or city councilman can influence your life just as much as the White House. So even those who hold your nose when politics comes up should get engaged on that level. And with apologies to Mr. Vidal, I’ll conclude with a quote of his that wasn’t related necessarily to elections, but in this context should be: “You hear all this whining going on, ‘Where are our great writers?’ The thing I might feel doleful about is: Where are the readers?”
Hopefully, these days they’re holding a Kitsap Sun, and a ballot.