Why we are not endorsing

The Sun-Times can no longer make political endorsements, but we’re still committed to providing information for voters.

“I voted” stickers sit on a table inside the Chicago Board of Elections’ Loop Super Site for early voting on Oct. 1, 2020.

“I voted” stickers sit on a table inside the Chicago Board of Elections’ Loop Super Site for early voting on Oct. 1, 2020.

Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

The Chicago Sun-Times has a long history with political endorsements, dating back to the days when newspapers were routinely and unashamedly partisan in their news coverage as well as on their editorial pages.

Indeed, political endorsements have long been a staple in mainstream newspapers, even now at a time when legacy news outlets adhere to a goal of providing unbiased, non-partisan news coverage. Many readers rely on endorsements, which is why so many of you protested in 2012 when the Sun-Times, under a previous owner, announced that it would no longer make them.

Disgruntled readers made it clear that, especially for down-ballot races that typically do not receive a lot of news coverage, endorsements are a valuable resource. Even when readers disagree with a particular choice of candidate, they told us that endorsements at least gave them a starting point to help them decide which candidate would get their vote.

Based on that feedback, the Sun-Times reversed course and has endorsed candidates in every election since 2014. We have viewed endorsements as a vital public service for readers, who don’t have the same access to candidates as a news outlet does, or the same opportunities to grill them on the issues.

Editorials bug

Editorials

Changing times

Times change, however. The Sun-Times is now a nonprofit news outlet, an affiliate of Chicago Public Media and a partner with WBEZ. This partnership — one of the largest nonprofit news operations in the country — is supported by private foundations and other donors who stepped up because they believe the Chicago metro area must maintain robust, competitive local media.

Readers have told us they’re excited to see how this partnership unfolds. But as the 2022 election season kicks into high gear, with the June 28 primary and the Nov. 8 general election on the horizon, many readers have also asked:

“What about endorsements?”

As a nonprofit, the Sun-Times can no longer make endorsements.

The IRS guidance governing 501(c)3 nonprofits is clear on this point, and we want to make sure our readers are aware of that.

Here is the relevant IRS language:

A 501(c)3 “may not publish or distribute printed statements or make oral statements on behalf of, or in opposition to, a candidate for public office. Consequently, a written or oral endorsement of a candidate is strictly forbidden. The rating of candidates, even on a nonpartisan basis, is also prohibited.”

While we can no longer endorse or rate candidates, the Sun-Times is still deeply committed to helping our readers make well-informed decisions in the voting booth.

The Sun-Times and WBEZ are discussing how best to reach our audiences with news coverage, analysis and informed opinion this election season. On the table are potential products that may include a voter’s guide, candidate questionnaires, a “crib sheet” on some of the Chicago area’s big races, data visualizations, email newsletters, public opinion polls or community events such as candidate debates.

The Editorial Board will continue to take stands and express its views on public policy. Whether it’s holding the line on higher taxes when necessary, improving public safety and public schools, cleaning up the environment, encouraging smart economic development or another important policy issue, the board will continue to speak out and demand that officials do what’s best for the public they serve.

The Sun-Times can no longer participate in the tradition of endorsement. But the tradition of informing voters is alive and well.

If you are a candidate for office and want to make sure we have your email address and other contact information, email us at candidates@suntimes.com

If you have an idea that you’d like to see as part of our election guides, email us at letters@suntimes.com.

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