Editorial boards at newspapers throughout Florida have had busy summers.
It's an election year and the primaries in all 67 counties have rolled around earlier than usual.
With early voting commencing up to two weeks before the Aug. 14 election day, the window was tight to meet with all the candidates and formulate endorsements.
The Daily News editorial board interviewed 68 hopefuls for public office and we began publishing our candidate endorsement editorials last Sunday. They will continue into this week.
We've found that each newspaper's editorial endorsement process is unique. No two are exactly alike.
Here's how it worked this summer at the Daily News:
We invited all candidates who qualified for the ballots in both Lee and Collier counties to meet with our editorial board for an on-the-record discussion of the issues. The sessions were limited to about 30 minutes each. We didn't want any candidate to feel they were treated differently from their opponents.
Thirty minutes can go fairly fast when a candidate is passionate about running and eager to detail a platform.
But, as many a candidate told us, 30 minutes is a luxury compared to the one or two minutes they are afforded to speak on an issue during any of the many public forums and debates.
Five members of the editorial board participated in our interviews this summer. Jeff Lyle, our editorial page editor, scheduled the sessions. As executive editor, I outlined the ground rules and usually asked the first question. Joining us were Brent Batten, our long-time political columnist; Harriet Heithaus, our Neapolitan editor who is experienced at writing editorials and opinion pieces; and Kim Pokarney, who has management experience in our advertising and finance departments. She has served on our editorial board for three years and contributes a non-newsroom perspective.
You may notice that no news reporters nor editors of news reporters participate In the endorsement process. That's typical at newspapers. Reporters rarely are involved in the subjective review of candidates. At the Daily News, they never are involved.
This summer, we video recorded the 30-minute sessions with each candidate and posted the interviews on our website (www.naplesnews.com/elections). This allows editorial board members to review an interview that they may have missed, but more importantly it allows the voters to view each session.
Our editorial board interviews have always been "on-the-record." Making the recordings available to the public is in keeping with that ideal.
The recorded interviews are not the only resource used at endorsement time. Board members also glean information from news stories, monitor candidate forums and consider candidate position papers.
In past elections, the editorial board tended to select candidates for endorsement by a show of hands after our homework was done. Each board member got one vote. Since five of us participated in the interview process, tie votes were not an issue.
This election year we are doing it differently.
There are no votes of individual preference. Instead the board reaches a consensus on whether to endorse a candidate, not endorse a candidate or to withhold endorsement in a particular race.
We attempt to reach a consensus by reviewing each candidate's track record or stance on a short list of issues important to the community.
This change was prompted by our Lighthouse Project, which we launched in April with three special sections assessing Southwest Florida's past, present and future.
For instance, our reporting clearly confirmed that the local economy, jobs and a healthy Southwest Florida business climate top the list of citizen concerns.
The candidates we interviewed -- those running for Congress, the state house and the county commission -- confirm this. The voters, they said, most often asked about the local economy.
If you have viewed any of the candidate interviews you know about our repeated questions on whether government is unfriendly to business in Collier and Lee counties.
We were assessing opinions and seeking specifics from the candidates.
So, while the old standards of trust, transparency and track record remain important subjective measurements to consider, the editorial board as a whole was looking for a spark of leadership in tackling the community's big issues. And, that was the basis for this year's endorsements.