Things to Watch Out for in the WV Governor's Race

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Political ads can be helpful, but also befuddling

The West Virginia primary, to elect the state’s next governor, is past.

But before the political ads start flying for the October general election, a couple of notes about those ads.
I found it most interesting that so many of the Spring Primary ads focused on what various newspapers had said about this candidate or that.
The newspapers were quoted, showing very strong language being used to question the actions or motives of one person or the other.
But there are a couple of things you should remember:
One, many of the most strongly-worded newspaper quotes came from editorials, and NOT news columns. That’s right, the statements were the OPINIONS of editorial writers, not necessarily statements of fact as derived from any court proceedings or official inquiries.
Newspaper editorial-writers pretty much have free rein to say just about anything they want about public figures, without risking libel or slander. They get paid to attract controversy and to sometimes say outlandish things to pique the readers’ interest. They can say things that reporters cannot and should not say.
And there are several newspapers with well-known positions.
The Charleston Daily Mail, for example, has a history of being strongly Republican. The Charleston Gazette has a hoistory of being strongly Democratic. So this fall, if you hear the Daily Mail being quoted as saying something negative about the Democratic candidate for Governor, you should take it with a grain of salt. By the same token, if the Gazette says something negative about the GOP candidate, you should also consider the source.
The Daily Mail and the Gazette are both wonderful newspapers. I used to work at the Daily Mail and loved the rivalry that existed between those two newspapers.
But when you see or hear ads that mention what either of them says about a  candidate, be aware of where the quotes came from.
The other point is that even though one of the newspapers was quoted in a TV ad, saying something negative about a candidate, that same candidate claimed he or she had the endorsement of that same newspaper. He or she probably did! The negative statement about the candidate was made many years earlier. So that‘s the other thing you should look for: if the negative ad shows a quote with a date that is not recent, you can assume that whatever the candidate may have done, it certainly wasn’t serious enough to bring any criminal prosecution or jail time. I would recommend you discard any reference to ancient newspaper articles or editorials as irrelevant for this year’s issues.
If a candidate has no more ammunition against his opponent than to quote old newspaper articles, or editorials from newspapers with well-known positions again the opponent’s party, then the candidate had better stick to telling you what he will do to make things better, rather than trying such a weak, back-handed attack on his opponent. And you should vote against any candidate that tries these worn-out tactics.
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