From the CEO: Why we don’t endorse political candidates
San Jose City Hall is pictured in this file photo.

    Campaign season is upon us and your mailboxes are undoubtedly overflowing with political mail.

    San Jose voters may have recently seen political mailers boasting our San José Spotlight logo along with quotes from our articles. While we are glad to see our journalism resonating with folks, it’s critical we make one thing clear—we do not endorse candidates. As a 501c(3) nonprofit news organization, we simply cannot do so.

    The campaign mailer in question came from San Jose City Council candidate Irene Smith. She is running to replace downtown Councilmember Raul Peralez who terms out in December. She faces community college trustee Omar Torres in the November matchup.

    Once contacted by us, Smith immediately agreed to stop using our logo in her campaign materials.

    But this incident provided me an opportunity to explain how and why we do not endorse—beyond our tax status limitations.

    At San José Spotlight, we strongly believe in giving you the facts and the truth—then letting you decide. We are here to answer questions, to introduce you to the candidates during our live forums, to investigate wrongdoing and ask the tough questions. We are here to follow the money and reveal how special interests and lobbyists are attempting to shape the election. We are here to fact-check claims from the campaign trail and to dispel mistruths. We are here to call out racist rhetoric that has plagued Silicon Valley elections for years.

    But we are not here to tell you how to vote.

    I personally believe endorsements from news organizations are antiquated. They tend to create division in an already-divisive political climate. They create a conflict for reporters who have nothing to do with the editorial board’s decision but face angry candidates who were snubbed (I was that reporter!). And to be honest, endorsements—whether from a news agency or another organization—are often meaningless to everyday voters. If people do weigh endorsements before filling out their ballots, it is likely one of many factors they consider—the bigger ones usually being, “how will this person make my life better?”

    As members of the Institute for Nonprofit News, a coalition of more than 400 nonprofit newsrooms across the country, we adhere to ethical standards that encourage a level of editorial independence and transparency.

    “Nonprofit news organizations do not endorse candidates and, under IRS guidelines, should not favor any candidate for public office in coverage or other action,” the organization’s standards say.

    So, to put it simply—don’t be fooled if you see our news organization’s logo or quotes in campaign literature. We let our readers think for themselves, and we are here to fill in the gaps when you need it.

    Speaking of filling your information needs, check out this explainer about how to vote. What else do you want to know about the election? What are your unanswered questions? Contact me at [email protected].

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