Candidates owe real answers, not spin

Question: I have a feeling that we are not getting reliable information from our political candidates. I keep hearing bytes and redundancies like "tax break for the rich" and "a new America." Blahblahblah.

What can we, and what can you as a newspaper editor, do to garner real information we can use to make informed decisions as citizens? I'm not obtuse and I am listening; there must be a way, but politicians do make it difficult.

How can we ask the questions that will get real answers? -- John A. Perry

Answer: The writer echoes the frustration of most journalists who try to cover campaigns. There is so much spin, so much emphasis on the horse race and inattention to real issues, that voters are not particularly well served.

Our goal here is to focus on issues and pay less attention or ignore the meaningless sound and fury that accompanies major campaigns. When given the opportunity, we'll ask issues-oriented questions of the candidates. We'll use as a guide the survey work we do, which focuses on issues important to local citizens. We'll also give preference to wire stories that deal in issues.

Last weekend, we published something we call an issues grid for the remaining Democratic hopefuls. The grid was an effort to synthesize from their writings and speeches candidate positions on a variety of issues. We'll periodically update those grids during the primary season and then develop a comparable grid to be run regularly throughout the fall campaign.

All of our issues-based coverage will have web components, as well. (Such as our "blind" quiz on the Democratic candidates.) -- Steve Smith, editor

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