Newspaper Endorsements Are Helpful -- Don't Do Away with Them!

By Strupp, Joe | Editor & Publisher, February 4, 2008 | Go to article overview

Newspaper Endorsements Are Helpful -- Don't Do Away with Them!


Strupp, Joe, Editor & Publisher


Last week, our friend Will Bunch, who blogs at the Philadelphia Daily News's smart, and edgy, Attytood.com, spoke out against newspaper political endorsements.

While Bunch, focused partly on the idea of endorsing candidates in each political primary -- who may well be opposed on many issues (e.g. The New York Times backing Obama and McCain)-- he also critiqued the general idea of endorsements, stating, "We endorse the idea that newspapers should be getting out of the endorsement biz, not back into it as the L.A. Times has done."

Among Bunch's views was the idea that newspapers have a better shot at maintaining their objectivity and unbiased image when they avoid endorsements. I respect his view, but strongly disagree.

The clear focus on editorial pages is the promotion of ideas and views and, of course, opinion. Endorsements are among the most valid of those opinions and, for many readers, helpful. In recent years, the anti-press fervor that has gripped much of the country, a large part of it from right-wing factions seeking to label the media as overwhelmingly liberal, has focused on the idea that the press is not only pro-left, but also bias in that regard with its coverage.

A key piece of that argument targets American newspapers' editorial pages, many of which are left-leaning and proud of it. But that bias claim wrongly seeks to link most editorial pages with news coverage, a claim that for some reason goes too often unchallenged.

The truth is, many newspapers were built, long ago, on editorial page viewpoints that, sometimes, have veered into news coverage. But anyone who carefully examines today's major papers and their reporting of most controversial issues finds the editorial pages do not, for the most part, affect coverage.

That is even clearer with regard to endorsements and campaign coverage. Bunch contends in his piece that "supporting a candidate -- even through a vehicle as tepid as most newspaper endorsements -- gives you being the appearance of becoming a partisan, at least in this sense: A partisan will look for an excuse that might condone the very same behavior -- a breach of ethics, say -- he would condemn in someone else. …

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