Don’t Point That Political Gun at Me
OpinionEditor's Notebook

Don’t Point That Political Gun at Me

Please believe me: If we're endorsing a candidate for office, we won't be sneaky about it.

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

If Brian Kemp's purpose with this ad was to troll gun-control advocates and produce lots of publicity, he succeeded. (YouTube screen grab)
If Brian Kemp's purpose with this ad was to troll gun-control advocates and produce lots of publicity, he succeeded. (YouTube screen grab)

Georgia has a primary election May 22, with early voting going on now.

I hope that isn’t news to you. Not only are the TV commercials coming fast and furious — most famously with Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s shotgun-and-suitor ad — but the AJT has been writing about one aspect or another since early March.

Some readers, at least online, didn’t seem to notice that we were paying any attention to the election until we shared on our Facebook page an interview with Kemp. Suddenly, we were enveloped in outrage.

The initial fury was directed at Kemp, who has been at the center of controversies over voter ID and registration laws, voting machines, and protection (or lack thereof) of voter records. That TV ad, in which he uses a shotgun to intimidate a boy interested in one of his daughters, fueled the anger.

(I suspect Kemp was trolling gun control advocates with that ad. Needing something to stand out from a tough Republican field, he wanted the attention and news stories, and he succeeded.)

Inevitably, the wrath turned on the AJT. Why didn’t we ask him about the gun ad or the voting questions? Why did we give a platform to a candidate who is so unworthy, offensive, idiotic (choose your favorite negative adjective)? How could we sink so low as to endorse him?

Except that we didn’t endorse Kemp or anyone else.

We published similar articles in the May 4 issue on the five leading Republican candidates — Casey Cagle, Hunter Hill, Clay Tippins and Michael Williams, in addition to Kemp — having published an extensive article on the two Democrats March 30.

Online, we packaged the stories together so that a visitor to our home page would see all of them. But I failed to put links to all the related profiles within each article, and that oversight (belatedly corrected) allowed people who followed the link directly to the Kemp story to think it stood alone.

Every election cycle, we seem to have at least one article that causes an uproar when people online — some reading the article, others just reading about it on social media — mistakenly believe that we’re endorsing a candidate or a position they despise. Usually, the outrage is coming from the left, which might reflect our community’s liberal tilt or the perceived bias of a newspaper with a conservative owner.

We try to learn from these episodes. For example, when a guest columnist makes a political endorsement, we put the writer’s name at the start of the headline online. We won’t again fail to put all the links to comparable political profiles into each online article.

But I also hope you, our readers, will learn from each of these episodes.

First, we won’t try to sneak an endorsement past you. We run a staff editorial representing the view of the newspaper every week, and we clearly label it “Our View.” If an article doesn’t indicate it’s an opinion piece, it’s not supposed to be.

Second, when we interview candidates for governor or Congress, we’re not going to address every issue with them. We leave the comprehensive political coverage to those who do it well at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Instead, we focus on the issues of most importance to the Jewish community, and we’re going to address the same issues with all the candidates for the same office.

These aren’t hard-hitting investigative pieces, but I hope they provide information you won’t get from a general-interest publication, even if they don’t ask all the questions you want answered.

It’s OK if such articles are not to your taste, and it’s fair if you don’t think we should waste time talking to gubernatorial candidates about Israel. All I ask is that when you criticize us, you base that criticism on what we’re actually doing and give us the benefit of the doubt that we mean well and aren’t trying to trick you.

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