We've all been scolded "if you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all" at one time or another, haven't we? Of course, that admonishment doesn't apply when you work in the news business, (likely one of the reasons man of us were attracted to the profession in the first place). But what happens when a journalist kind of has to say something nice about someone, but they're not psyched about it? For a near textbook version of this, please turn to the SF Chronicle's endorsement of Mayor Ed Lee in the November, 2015 election.
The whole concept of "endorsements" from newspapers is an interesting thing, but also one that I think a lot of busy folks still find useful even in this post-print era. There are certainly worse ways to make voting decisions than to hear what a publication you are generally OK with has to say on this issues! Until it folded, I'd regularly see my fellow voters toting a copy of the SF Bay Guardian's endorsement issue, for example (though if they were voting in line with or in direct opposition to the alt-weekly's recommendations, I cannot say).
Speaking as someone who worked at the Chron for a couple of years, I do believe that their editorial board (which has a solid line of separation from the newsroom) takes the process of determining endorsements very seriously, one of the reasons they talk to candidates for hours at a time.
You can see their conversation with incumbent Mayor Ed Lee here, during which, let's be honest, Lee would have had to punch Chron ed board head John Diaz's lights out, leg-sweep Debra J. Sanders, then take a massive dump on the conference room table to lose the paper's endorsement — I mean, what are they gonna do, say "vote for Broke-Ass"? Even if Lee had created such a thrilling scene, they likely would have gone the "no endorsement" route (as they did in 2010, when current presidential candidate Carly Fiorina went for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat).
But the Chron's recent editorial recommending that voters re-elect Lee is the next worst thing: Basically, a shrug.
Beginning by describing the recent changes to Mid-Market as "a stunning turnabout" things seem pretty positive, but that's as good as it gets: Next up, a description of the area's remaining "drifters, sleepers, and others," and the accusation that "Lee is coasting to re-election."
And it gets more critical from there: "Asked about his achievements, he harks back to his first, all but forgotten challenges to chill the City Hall temperature with softer rhetoric and his all-sides-together plan to patch over looming pension debts," and that he "bought into a winning city economy" (as opposed to spearheading it, one might imagine).
Going into the housing crisis and homelessness, the Chron acknowledges things like Lee's 30,000 units plan and the homeless Navigation Center, but still says that "San Francisco is rightly impatient with the lack of progress."
It's difficult to imagine a less enthusiastic endorsement, in fact, as the piece concludes that "Lee must do more to communicate and follow through." It's the very definition of damning with the faintest of praise, not unlike when Jerry Brown forgot to endorse Lee earlier this year.
Not that it matters! Since no legitimate (sorry, Stuart) contender had the get-up-and-go to face off against Lee, we're in for another four years of Lee heading up, as the Chron says, "a city racked by doubts about its future."
Previously: Jerry Brown Forgets To Endorse Ed Lee During Ed Lee Endorsement Speech
So Much For That: Mark Leno Won't Try To Unseat Mayor Ed Lee After All
Video: Mayor Ed Lee's Vision For San Francisco