If some press observers were surprised that the Denver Post endorsed Barack Obama for president despite de facto owner Dean Singleton's rightward leanings (which led the broadsheet to support George W. Bush last time around), plenty of others were likely just as startled that the more conservative Rocky Mountain News didn't back Obama's Republican opponent, John McCain. Not that the Rocky wound up in Obama's corner, too. Instead, the paper decided not to make any endorsement at all in the race, or in others involving candidates as opposed to ballot initiatives, for reasons Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple explained in his Saturday column.
In "Input, Not Endorsements," Temple states his case plainly:
Today I have come to believe that rather than recommending how you should vote on partisan races, we better serve you by providing perspective that may help you shape your own opinion. After all, our motto is, "Give light and the people will find their own way."
This line of thinking doesn't extend to ballot measures. In Temple's view, there's still value in the paper offering a thumbs-up or thumbs-down about them. And neither does he pledge that the Rocky will never again endorse a candidate; rather, he says such a move will be "an exception." But he makes it clear that rather than positioning the tabloid as either conservative or liberal (despite his admission that the editorial board generally tilts "center right"), he'd prefer to "give readers something they can trust because of its clear commitment to fair-minded and incisive reporting."
This approach mirrors the one Temple took in relation to RedBlueAmerica.com, which he touted in "New Site's Hues are Red, Blue," a January 2008 column. The site was intended to feature a variety of viewpoints instead of only ones that fit a certain mold.
Unfortunately, this project went south just four months later, as Temple acknowledged almost parenthetically in a column about another topic; there's still content on the site today, but it's nothing like originally envisioned. Nevertheless, the Rocky chieftain remains intrigued by the idea that a news organization can take a middle path even during a day and age when the most successful political websites and cable channels prefer to move in more extreme directions. That may strike some as naive and counter-intuitive, but it's intriguing as well. It'll be interesting to see if the Rocky sticks with the concept over the long haul. -- Michael Roberts