Rick Perry might have been a politician ahead of his time a dozen years ago as he sought re-election to his post as Texas governor.
Perry announced to the state’s editorial boards — and I was a member of one of them in 2010 — that he wouldn’t visit newspaper offices to seek editorial pages’ endorsement.
Why, he would just “talk directly to Texans” and not mess with newspapers’ editorial pages.
Well, you know what? Perry’s strategy worked. Virtually every newspaper in Texas endorsed the Democrat running against Perry that year, former Houston mayor Bill White. The Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked at the time, was among the papers that gave its “blessing” to White.
I will never forget the reaction we got from our readers. Many of them responded to us as if we had endorsed the Son of Satan himself.
What’s more, Perry was able to cruise to re-election, much as he had done in every year he ran for the office.
What’s the lesson here? It is that voters no longer rely on newspaper editors’ “wisdom” in helping them decide how to cast their ballots. In many cases, readers’ minds are made up. They have heard all they need to hear about candidates and their views on pressing issues of the day.
This trend saddens me. I edited opinion pages in Amarillo for nearly 18 years, for nearly 11 years in Beaumont and for a half-dozen years in Oregon, City, Ore., before my career ended in August 2012. I was proud of virtually all the endorsements we made during those years. Moreover, I took pride in the respectful reaction we received — even from readers who disagreed with what we offered.
Newspapers aren’t as “respected” these days as they used to be. That, too, saddens me greatly. Those of us who write for newspapers, be they major metro dailies or community papers, aren’t “the enemy of the people.” We seek to do our job with fairness and accuracy. When we offer commentary, we do so with the same noble motives.
Rick Perry didn’t see it that way when he stiffed editorial boards’ desire to visit with him on why he sought to return to public office.
He was ahead of his time.