All act surprised: Sun-Times to endorse Bruce Rauner

Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times

After insisting for nearly three years that it would no longer endorse candidates for political office, the Sun-Times is reversing itself and formally backing Republican Bruce Rauner for governor.

The Sun-Times announced Friday that its Sunday edition would carry its choice for governor. Although the announcement stopped short of saying whom the newspaper would endorse, sources confirmed that Rauner would get the nod enthusiastically over Democrat Pat Quinn.

Michael Ferro Jr.

Michael Ferro Jr.

The decision to endorse Rauner and no other candidates on the November ballot is certain to fuel cynicism about the motives of Michael Ferro Jr., chairman of Sun-Times Media parent company Wrapports LLC. In recent weeks, sources said, Ferro has been exerting pressure on editors regarding coverage of Rauner, who held a 10 percent stake in Wrapports before he became a candidate for governor.

The back-pedaling by the Sun-Times may have been foreshadowed earlier in the week when the paper ran a full-throated editorial in support of Rauner (“Economy only thing that matters”) that many regarded as a tacit endorsement.

Questioned about it by Chicago magazine political blogger Carol Felsenthal, Sun-Times publisher and editor-in-chief Jim Kirk said: “This was not a backdoor endorsement. If it were an endorsement we would be upfront about it.”

The Sun-Times said it would make endorsements in the February Chicago municipal elections and “other key local races.”

Here is the text of the Sun-Times editorial announcement:

Why we are back in the endorsement business

The Chicago Sun-Times will again endorse candidates in elections.

We will plunge back in Sunday with an endorsement in the race for governor, and we will make endorsements in the February Chicago municipal elections and other key local races.

Two years and nine months ago, we announced we would no longer make endorsements, explaining that we had come to believe they feed a perception of a hidden bias throughout a newspaper. The Chicago Sun-Times has always taken great care to keep its news coverage separate from its editorials and opinion pieces, but we are sensitive to the fact that we operate within an increasingly fragmented and politicized media market.

Our readers have taken a different view. They have told us they understand the difference between the independence exhibited in the news coverage from opinions expressed in the editorials.

We appreciated this feedback and understanding.

In the years and months since our decision to stop making endorsements, readers have told us constantly that they found great value in them and wished we would make them again. Our endorsements, they said, offered another frame of reference, fresh analysis and insight. Even when they disagreed with an endorsement, readers said, it was of help to them in exercising the most fundamental right of a democratic republic — deciding who will represent them. For every reader who has commended us for standing on the sidelines, seemingly hundreds of others have asked, “Who’s gonna tell me how to vote for …?”  

When we stopped making endorsements, part of our rationale was that in this digital age citizens already have access to a vast number of resources for boning up on the issues and candidates and deciding whom to vote for. While this is true, we also know we have something extra to offer, given our deep Chicago and Illinois roots and knowledge, that can’t be found elsewhere. This is especially true for down-ballot local races for which there often is not a wealth of other information or insight.

The heart of the matter is that Chicago is our city and Illinois is our state. We belong here, love being here, and want to do our best by our hometown. It is our reason for being. The
Chicago Sun-Times is inextricably and permanently tied to this wonderful town, its fortunes becoming our own fortunes. A newspaper has a special bond with a community, and a unique obligation to be of service.

If taxes get too high, it’s our job to say so, for your sake and ours. If taxes must be raised, for that matter, we had better speak up — for your sake and ours. If our schools are inadequate, we must say so. And we had better make darn sure we are represented by the best possible elected officials, men and women of the highest caliber, looking after the near and long-term needs of the people.

The Chicago Sun-Times will make endorsements without fear or favor. We will immerse ourselves in the issues and in the qualifications of the candidates, seek the views of a broad range of experts and thought leaders, offer the best possible analysis and, finally, give you our take on who deserves your vote.

With every endorsement we make, we hope to serve our readers better.