Thursday, October 02, 2008

Time for coverage and commentary on the presidential election, even in weekly newspapers

Most weekly newspapers seem to be taking little note of the presidential election, but we think editors who ignore it are failing to serve their readers -- and missing a bet by not covering or commenting on something of great interest. Across the nation, states are reporting record voter turnout, and polls show record interest in the election.

Weekly editors should also remember that many if not most of their readers don't read daily newspapers, so their primary source of information about the election is television, which is largely sound bites and superficial summaries on the news and misleading ads all day long. While most weeklies can't offer their own shoe-leather reporting on the election, they can borrow material from The Rural Blog (with proper credit) and their Web sites can provide links to groups like and, which separate truth from fiction in political ads.

They can also offer commentary that resonates with their local readers. One example is this week's "From the porch" column by Brad Martin of the Hickman County Times in Centerville, Tenn., which is headlined "Astonishing times" and begins by mentioning weekly papers' traditional role and then saying this is a time to go beyond it: "Even a local gopher like me has had to pull up and pay attention to what’s been going on at the national level for the last few weeks."

Martin asks and answers, "How do we get to election day from here? Cage the attack dogs, please, and try to listen. Best chance for that is during the debates. What I will be looking for are assurances that we have a candidate that will talk to others and listen . . . "

Meanwhile, Martin gives his local take on the big issue of the day: "The financial wizards are in trouble, and markets are teetering. Lenders are overextended in the quest for loans and more profit. Heck, even here in Centerville, I continue to see signs advertising real estate with absolutely no down payment. That’s simply reckless. If folks can’t down-pay, they’re not ready to buy."

The Times is not online, but you can download a PDF of its current editorial page here. That's from, the site of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. And if you see other good examples of presidential coverage or commentary in weekly newspapers, add a comment to this item or e-mail

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