COMMENTARY

We the People …

Open debate is an essential part of the democratic process.

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” – Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

We hear about media bias all the time. Politicians, pundits and even average citizens now yell, ‘fake news’ and bias any time there’s something they don’t believe, don’t agree with and don’t like. The Hill Country News is no different. More times than I can count in my career, I have received calls and emails from readers saying that we’re showing either liberal or conservative bias — often being accused of being both “too liberal” and “too conservative” over the same article or event.

As journalists, in particular community journalists, we walk a very fine line. Taking a stand on an issue that impacts our readers is something we don’t take lightly because we don’t just work our jobs and then go home to some other town in the area, putting away the stresses of the work for another day. We live here. We shop here. Our children go to school here. We have a vested interest in the quality of life in our community because we are part of this community, too, both personally and professionally.

We’ve gotten some flak about our decision to hold a debate this week for the Leander mayor’s race, with some saying that we’re biased against one candidate. Our job is to provide our readers with as much information as possible from all sides so they can make the best educated decision possible when they cast their ballots. 

Debates are one of the best ways to do this. It’s the closest the voters get to interviewing the candidates for the job. We want all candidates to have an equal opportunity to interview for that job so they all get invited, receive a standard set of questions at the same time and have the same opportunity to talk to voters in the same venue.

As a community newspaper, we have had a long-standing rule that we don’t endorse candidates running for office. Our goal in every election is to provide as much information about who the candidates are, where they stand on issues and what their plans are should they win so each voter has as much information as possible to cast an educated vote. One way we can do that is to hold a debate, invite all candidates and allow the people to hear how each candidate stands on issues that matter to them.

For those who win, we will follow their actions as elected officials. Did you run on a ‘no tax hike’ platform and then vote for a tax increase? We’re going to report on it and ask why. Was one of your campaign promises to add a local park? We’ll be watching and telling our readers when it happens. Good or bad, saving or spending, advancements or declines, our job is to explain to our readers what those actions are and how they will be impacted.

Whoever wins the Leander mayoral race — or any race — we will always and forever side with ‘we, the people’ and work tirelessly to inform the public about the candidates and the job they’re doing in office. That’s our responsibility, and it’s something we take very seriously.

— Brandi Chionsini is the owner of the Hill Country News.

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