In any election, the only endorsement that counts is your vote. But newspaper endorsements, such as the ones made recently by the Los Angeles Times for the Nov. 6 election, are an important part of the decision-making for many voters.
Last week, The Times was sharply criticized for publishing two different sets of endorsements, one in its English-language edition and one in the Spanish-language edition. That left readers and the candidates confused.
The discrepancy was first reported by local journalist Pilar Marrero on the website Latino Rebels. The story was later picked up by other news outlets including the New York Times, Breitbart, KNX and KCBS.
“Why would the same newspaper, with a mainstream version in English and another version in Spanish covering the same geographical area and diverse communities, endorse different candidates for the same federal, state and local elections in each language?” Marrero wanted to know.
Many of our readers asked the same question. Some suggested that The Times was consciously trying to ingratiate itself with two different constituencies.
Here is what happened:
The company that owns the Los Angeles Times also owns two local Spanish-language publications: Hoy Los Angeles, a weekly printed on Fridays, and Los Angeles Times en Español, a weekly printed on Saturdays. Both have online versions. (The company also publishes the San Diego Union-Tribune and Hoy San Diego.)
Hoy and Los Angeles Times en Español are produced by a separate news staff and editorial director. Los Angeles Times en Español was launched earlier this year and it publishes a collection of Times articles translated to Spanish, with selected articles from Hoy and other news organizations.
The Los Angeles Times endorsements should have run online and in print in Los Angeles Times en Español. Hoy’s endorsements should have run separately on its website and in its print edition.
But instead, the Hoy endorsements appeared online under Los Angeles Times en Español.
When the mistake was discovered, the headline was changed to reflect that the endorsements were Hoy’s, and a link was provided to The Times’ recommendations. However, the print version of Los Angeles Times en Español had already been distributed containing Hoy’s endorsements.
Hoy Editorial Director Alejandro Maciel said the Hoy endorsements should not have appeared in Los Angeles Times en Español. He added that Hoy, as a separate publication, makes its endorsement recommendations independently from The Times and the Union-Tribune.
The Times’ endorsement decisions are made by an editorial board led by Nicholas Goldberg, editor of the editorial pages. The board chooses which offices and ballot measures to consider, and members then research the issues in depth and interview officials, academics, constituents and others with expertise in the relevant areas. The board then invites each candidate, as well as proponents and opponents of each ballot measure, to meet with them to discuss the campaign and the issues. After finishing this reporting, the board deliberates and reaches a decision on each race before writing and publishing its endorsement. Endorsement decisions are made independently of The Times’ news staff.
“The entire reporting and writing process takes about two months,” Goldberg said, “and we aim to publish the endorsements at or around the time mail-in ballots are available.”
While endorsements in English-language newspapers are a standard practice, in Spanish-language papers they are relatively new, Maciel said.
At Hoy, a publication that aspires to serve the needs of the city’s first-generation Latinos, Maciel analyzes the candidates and propositions and talks to experts about ballot issues before making his recommendations.
“We only want to help our readers to understand the electoral process and motivate them to go to the polls,” Maciel said.
Norman Pearlstine, executive editor of The Times, said: “We are proud of The Times editorial board’s endorsements, which were reached after a thorough vetting and reflect the position of the paper, no matter what language they are translated into. We apologize for confusing readers by mistakenly publishing Hoy’s endorsements, rather than our own, in Los Angeles Times en Español.”
J.T. Cramer is the readers’ representative of The Times.