Rarely has a West Hawaii Today special advertorial tab section been so highly anticipated.
Hey, we’ll take the publicity, even though it’s come with a poke in the eye from the Honolulu-based publication, Civil Beat.
Today’s 20-page Election 2018 special section, as produced by the West Hawaii Today advertising team, features 15 candidate ads lobbying for your vote.
But it is just that: A special section produced by the advertising team. It is not a product of the newspaper’s editorial department.
Unfortunately, the Civil Beat article titled “Candidates Say ‘Pay To Play’ Is Unfair For Newspaper Voter’s Guide,” blurred the lines a bit.
The product is solely advertising — with the exception of a district map, list of West Hawaii races and a condensed, reprinted version of the County Council District 7 candidate forum that originally appeared in the A section of WHT on July 11.
The novelty of the ad design probably caught people off guard, too. It was a unique mix-and-match of pictures and words.
When candidates bought an ad — typically their traditional campaign photo, slogan and colorful designs — it came with it an amount of space to talk about the issues they wanted to hit on, in their own words. It was space for them to pitch their stump speech, essentially, without gunking up their display ad with words.
The questions provided by WHT were talking points brought up at all the candidate forums hosted by Community Forums, among others, in the previous months. The candidates, however, were free to fill them out however they chose without any editorial oversight.
Candidates didn’t have to write anything if they didn’t want to. They could have turned down the opportunity for words and just relied on their standard display ad.
But, as is the case with any special section produced by the advertising department as a revenue generator, if they wanted to be a part of it at all, in any shape or form, they had to pay to be included.
That all leads us to now.
West Hawaii Today’s editorial team is taking on the election on its own, as we’ve planned to all along and as we’ve done in years past.
On Sunday, Aug. 5, we will be printing our primary election edition a week before the Aug. 11 primary. The A section that day will focus on the races West Hawaii will vote on, and will include candidate endorsements from this editorial board — the first time in years this paper has done so.
Sure, we can hear the snickers that this is a reactionary move — too little, too late. All we can say is that it isn’t. We know the confusion could have been better explained earlier by sharing it with Civil Beat in the first place, so lesson learned there.
That said, our editorial team has been at all the candidate forums, covered them, and we’ll highlight some of that coverage again, as well. The election edition will cover everything voters need to know a week before primary election day.
By no means was the Civil Beat article all bad. Far from it.
Experts raised excellent points about the dangers of journalists selling content — had that actually been the case.
We’ll be reaching out like we always do to give all candidates equal access to our platform, a responsibility we take seriously and have always carried out.