With a staff logging nearly 75 years in the newspaper business, sometimes we forget that in “the business,” we have rules and procedures that people not in this business don’t know. What’s more, having been Lockhart’s local news source for more than 140, we sometimes take for granted that our in-house policies, which we take for granted and occasionally believe are well-known in the community, can be confusing. At this point during “election season,” we find that these questions come more and more frequently.
Therefore, I’d like to take a moment to remind candidates and citizens alike of the Post-Register’s policies and procedures regarding political activities.
While we understand that it is our responsibility to keep our community informed, we also ask our community to recognize that, from time to time, there is a fine line between providing information and stumping for candidates. That being the case, in an effort to maintain arms’ length impartiality, we have a certain set of standards that we apply to all candidates and political parties.
First and foremost, the Post-Register is an equal-opportunity publication. We take pride in offering the same level of publicity to all candidates. With that in mind, we have a strict policy against covering campaign events, including political forums, unless all candidates in a given race are given the opportunity to attend and speak. If these events are limited to one political party or another, they will not be covered, nor will they be promoted, short of paid political advertising.
We do, however, offer all candidates a one-time, 500 word or less “campaign announcement,” giving the candidate the opportunity to introduce themselves to their community. These announcements must be written by the candidate or one of their supporters, and will be neither drafted nor edited by the staff of the Post-Register, with the exception of corrections for spelling and punctuation.
These announcements must be received within our general deadline constraints, meaning they must be received prior to 5 p.m. on the Monday of the week they are to be published. Any submissions received after 5 p.m. on Monday will not be considered until the following week. Campaign announcements be published on a space-available, first-come, first-served basis. If more than one candidate in a race has submitted a campaign announcement and space is not available for all announcements in that race, none will be published.
Additionally, we welcome Letters to the Editor addressing candidates or issues of local interest. However, Letters to the Editor discussing campaign issues will not be accepted from candidates, nor will they be published if they are deemed by our Editorial Board to be potentially libelous. Libel, as loosely defined by our Editorial Board, includes any printed statement that serves no purpose except to damage one’s reputation or credibility, and is not provable by documented fact.
As a general rule, the Post-Register will only publish the submissions as described above prior to six weeks before Election Day. However, because of the special situation presented by the Lockhart ISD Special-Called Election, we are offering a one-week extension for candidates in that election. School board candidates and supporters must submit all such materials for publication prior to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 2 for publication in our April 5, 2012, edition. Candidates in the Primary Races may continue to make such submissions until 5 p.m. on April 16, for publication on April 19.
After those dates, any information regarding candidates must be submitted in the form of paid political advertising, or it will not be considered.
At no time are candidate or party fundraisers considered appropriate for our free Community Calendar, nor will they be covered by our news staff. Any such event must be publicized via paid political advertising.
While we realize that the handful of weeks leading up to an election are the most critical for candidates, we must also acknowledge that the business of our community must go on. Therefore, we ask that candidates bear in mind those deadline dates when appearing at community events and speaking at public meetings.
While comments made by candidates during public meetings will be acknowledged, any comments made by a candidate, whether seated or not, that is determined by our Editorial Board to be campaigning or “stump speech,” will be disregarded for the purpose of news coverage. Furthermore, photographs in which candidates appear – whether for ribbon cuttings, proclamation presentations, or other community events, will be held over for publication until after Election Day.
Finally, we ask our candidates and readers to remember that the Post-Register does not offer candidate endorsements, under any circumstances. However, our entire staff lives within Caldwell County, and therefore are as impacted by any other voters by the decisions made at our polls. Our internal policies prevent our staff from posting campaign signs or stickers in their yards or on their vehicles; we ask our staff not to show public support for candidates; however, we cannot prevent our staff from supporting candidates of their choice, whether publicly or privately. We simply ask that the candidates, our readers and our community remember that our staff’s political affiliations and support are offered as citizens and residents of this county, and should in no way be interpreted as endorsement by the Lockhart Post-Register.
Naturally, we encourage candidates and readers to contact us with any questions or concerns about these policies, and wish you all the very best of luck on the campaign trail.