Editorial: Playing it fair key to election coverage

It's that time again when billboards sprout around the city and a group of men and women compete for your vote in the local body elections.
Nominations for this year's elections closed on Friday and on Saturday this newspaper carried the full list of candidates for Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, and Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board candidate list was made available this morning and appears on page 3 today.
The contest to decide who will lead Tauranga for the next three years is a seven-way clash with Mayor Stuart Crosby facing off against councillors Murray Guy and regular mayoral contender Bill Faulkner. Other candidates are Hori Leaming, John Robson, Jill Parry and Mark Groos.
In the Western Bay district, current Mayor Ross Paterson has been returned unopposed.
It's an interesting time and one when tensions rise as candidates use the media to convince people to vote for them.
In the Bay of Plenty Times, candidates will feature in the editorial part of the paper on pure news merit only - and that, like any other news decision, comes down to a judgment call by editorial executives.
No one will be getting any special treatment or free adverts.
Bay of Plenty Times business editor Graham Skellern is standing for a place on council and will be taking leave until the election is decided. Columnist Tommy Wilson, who writes for us on Monday, and Richard Moore, who writes on Tuesdays, are standing for the health board and city council respectively and their columns will not be published during this period.

The only other way candidates can get their messages across is by paid advertising and there are election rules that govern this.
Letters to the editor will be heavily screened, and once again this is a judgment call.
It is important readers have a forum to express their honest opinions and the challenge here at the paper is to ensure this is not abused by candidates and their supporters who are simply electioneering.
Conversely, candidates also need to be able to reply to reader letters that criticise them.
It will be difficult to please everyone and no doubt there will be some unhappy candidates.
Over the coming weeks, we will bring you relevant articles on the election contest and will be asking you for your views. One interesting feature will be a question and answer forum where we will put reader questions to candidates.
If you have any suggestions or ideas for coverage, please let us know.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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