Primarily, Sun-Times still not endorsing

Sun-TimesSeven weeks from today, primary voters will go to the polls to choose candidates for offices ranging from U.S. senator and Illinois governor to circuit court judges. But once again, they won’t be able to look to the Sun-Times for guidance.

Despite a report last fall that the newspaper was rescinding its ban on endorsements, sources said the Sun-Times editorial board will be sitting out the March 18 primary, as it has every election since it opted out of vetting political candidates in January 2012.

“We have come to doubt the value of candidate endorsements by this newspaper or any newspaper, especially in a day when a multitude of information sources allow even a casual voter to be better informed than ever before,” the Sun-Times wrote in an editorial explaining why it was dropping endorsements after 71 years.

Although the editorial was signed by then-publisher John Barron and editorial page editor Tom McNamee, it actually reflected the views of the paper’s new ownership, Wrapports LLC, and the personal opinion of CEO Timothy Knight in particular.

While Knight continues to oppose endorsements (believing that they promote the “perception of a hidden bias” by a newspaper), Sun-Times publisher and editor-in-chief Jim Kirk apparently is equally convinced they should be restored. Shortly after he became editor in April 2012, Kirk publicly expressed disagreement with the ban.

At least for the time being, the stalemate remains in effect. No process for endorsing candidates has been established and no candidate endorsement sessions have been scheduled in advance of the primary, sources said.

For those who favor endorsements, the issue isn’t so much influencing the high-profile races at the top of ballot as it is evaluating candidates for lesser races whose qualifications voters rarely have the time or resources to examine.

Nevertheless, some Sun-Times insiders expressed relief that they’d be skipping the primary because they feared Wrapports chairman Michael Ferro Jr. might exercise his prerogative to force the endorsement of Bruce Rauner, who sold his 10 percent stake in Wrapports before he became a Republican candidate for governor.

Last October Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the Sun-Times would start endorsing candidates again following “much discussion with editorial managers and Mr. Ferro.”