The Naples Daily News editorial board has lots of people to meet in the next 90 days.
That’s because it’s an election year and for the past few decades the newspaper has interviewed and endorsed candidates for every local, state and national race on the ballot.
This year, the board is realizing a dream. For the first time our interviews will be shared for all to see.
Our new facility on Immokalee Road in North Naples has a studio, similar to the broadcast facilities found at modern, up-to-date television stations.
We are using our studio to videotape the individual sessions. We plan to post every interview on our website before early voting begins Aug. 9 (editor's note: this is a corrected version of the original story, which had the wrong August date) for the 2010 primary.
The format of the candidate interviews will not change. We’ll simply capture them digitally and make them available for anyone who is interested.
In past years, the editorial board has invited every candidate who qualifies for the ballot to meet us for an informal question-and-answer session. The invitees range from mosquito-control district hopefuls to those seeking U.S. Senate seats.
There have been and will continue to be only two rules.
The first is a 30-minute time limit so no candidate feels cheated by getting more or less time than an opponent.
The second is not followed by every newspaper editorial board. It’s a rule that everything said should be considered on the record. “Don’t tell us anything you wouldn’t want to see printed one day in the newspaper” is what we tell candidates.
That second rule reflected our wish to conduct the question-and-answer sessions as if they were in the sunshine. But, until now, the 30-minute exchanges were open and free in spirit more than fact.
So far we have met with four candidates and videotaped each interview. We have dozens to go. When all candidates have been taped for a specific race, we will post the interviews on a special election Web page at www.naplesnews.com.
There was one concern as we made plans to capture the interviews and post them in their entirety.
Would the presence of a camera and a microphone dampen the free-wheeling, informal exchanges with the candidates?
Our editorial board interviews don’t rely on a rigid format or pre-printed questionnaire. They are designed to be more of a casual discussion, not a grilling.
Would that change with a digital camera running? Would a candidate be less than at ease?
So far, the answer has been no.
This past Thursday, our guest was Maurice Ferre, the former mayor of Miami. He is among those running as a Democrat for the open U.S. Senate seat being sought by Gov. Charlie Crist and Republicans led by Marco Rubio.
Ferre was anything but uncomfortable. He engaged the board in a lively discussion about the issues as if we were all sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch.
We learn plenty from such candidate visits. Perhaps the voters can as well.
Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org