At Large : No one cares
Elsewhere in the paper this morning, you will find the editor's official election endorsements. He advises on which candidates you should choose and on how you ought to answer ballot questions. The Martha's Vineyard Times observes this longstanding practice, along with most other newspapers in the country. Newspaper editors and publishers offer a variety of explanations for this habit, none particularly persuasive.
As they belabor the explanation of why they do it, editors generally conclude that, anyway, endorsements rarely have the desired effect on the choices readers make. Some newspaper readers, as editors have learned through sad experience, will be recalcitrant. You will insist that you know best and turn aside the carefully considered recommendations that the editor places before you. That's your right. Misguided and wayward, perhaps, but your right.
This tendency on the voter's part to evade the pure reason and good sense that underpin the editor's choices and strike out on his (or her) own is especially vexing to newspaper editors in this Island community. But it is not surprising. You people bridle at guidance and restraint. You shuffle restlessly during editorial lessons. You see things your own way. And while all of this may be occasionally true elsewhere, it is all too horribly common here.
But if it is to be expected among the general readership, it is nevertheless hard to understand how certain family members of an editor's household can become so irrational, even threateningly so, over the choices their beloved editors make. I mean, these are not commands we are issuing here.
If folks are free to make their own choices and have an established habit of doing so, why should loved ones, especially those who've promised faithful companionship "till death do us part" call for the Grim Reaper to step it up just because someone chooses one candidate rather than another?
And, you would think the kids at least could refrain from rolling their eyes, sighing those sighs, yucking those yucks, and eeuing all those eeu's every time the name of some candidate they don't like is raised at the dinner table.
It's not as if the editor isn't under enough pressure, responsible as he is for the careful instruction of several thousand voters. He certainly does not need to be told by the people he cherishes that he will have to eat his meals alone for the rest of his life if he endorses this one instead of that.
I am afraid that the typical member of an editor's family, or of his staff for that matter, has an inflated view of the editor's influence. Mostly, that sort of esteem is to be welcomed, but over this endorsement business, it chafes.
At times like this, one wants to promote some deflation. So I have recommended to the dearly beloved in my family, and to some of the others who may be frosted at the choices, this description by H. L. Mencken of editorial writers as a breed:
The jurisdiction of what Mr. Mencken called "the chief editorial dignitary on every American paper ... extended, not only over all the news departments but also over the editorial page. He was himself, in fact, the chief editorial writer, and on most papers his only help in that line came from two or three ancient hulks who were unfit for any better duty: copy-readers promoted from the city-room to get rid of them; alcoholic writers of local histories and forgotten novels; former managing editors who had come to grief on other papers; and a miscellany of decayed lawyers, college professors, and clergymen with whispered pasts.
"Some of these botches of God were pleasant enough fellows, and a few even showed a certain grasp of elemental English, but taking one with another they were held in disdain by the reporters, and it was almost unheard of for one of them to be promoted to a better job. Everyone believed as an axiom that they lifted four-fifths of their editorials from other papers, and most authorities held that they botched them in the lifting. If anyone in the city room had ever spoken of an editorial in his own paper as cogent and illuminating, he would have been set down as a jackass for admiring it and as a kind of traitor to honest journalism for reading it at all."
In his quadrennial defense, the above is adapted by the writer, not lifted, from a column that first appeared just before the November 2000 election.