Why would newspapers even want to endorse political candidates, Edward Morrissey asks in a a column on The Week’s website. And just to be sure you know exactly where Morrissey stands on this question, the emphatic headline “Why newspaper endorsements don’t matter” clears the matter. So does his characterization of newspaper endorsement editorials as “anachronisms.”
Perhaps interestingly to some of our readers — and certainly contrary to Morrissey’s prescription — The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette began endorsing candidates during the 2010 mid-term elections, which included a host of statewide offices, including governor. The newspapers’ editorial board sat with nearly every candidate in a contested election that would appear on a Beaufort County ballot (POTUS candidates were an obvious exception) and has done so since, including primary elections if only one major party fielded a candidate.
This effort is herculean for a newspaper of our size — during both the 2010 and 2012 cycles, senior editors and our publisher conducted about 30 interviews ranging from a half hour to an hour. That’s nearly a full work week devoted to sitting and talking to candidates ... for each member of the editorial board.
The decision to resume the practice that both newspapers had abandoned some time ago (In fact, I’m not certain the Packet ever endorsed candidates) was not mine. As such, I think I would be talking out of turn to defend or debunk the practice.
But this Inside Pages blog is about airing out newsroom and industry processes, and I think Morrissey at least raises a point worthy of consideration:
We live in a far different political and intellectual environment than we did 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago, when the daily newspaper on the front doorstep was the sign of an informed household. Even further gone are the days in most metropolitan areas when which newspaper sat on a stoop indicated the political and social leaning of the household. ... It's not even clear why newspapers would want to endorse candidates, especially for national office. Instead of influencing their readership in the election, these endorsements tend to serve as little more than red flags to those readers who disagree with them — and undermine their credibility thereafter.
However, I think those hours of candidate interviews and questionnaires that we post to our website also are worthy of consideration. They’re an important part of the process, and if the endorsement editorials didn’t sway readers — or if we never did endorsements at all — the interviews or questionnaire responses most certainly proved informative to anyone seeking information about local candidates, many of whom vie for nonpartisan office.
Even Morrissey seems to acknowledge the potential:
The candidates court editorial boards with almost as much vigor as big-ticket donors and bundlers. They pitch themselves to newspapers, usually sitting down for lengthy interviews and answering tough questions from the editors on a wide range of topics, some of which they'd normally avoid in a televised debate or a live interview. (Emphasis added.)
So what do you think?
I imagine your responses might be more complicated than can be captured in what is essentially a yes/no response. For example, perhaps you found the argument in one endorsement editorial convincing but the others lacking. Perhaps you decided NOT to vote for someone because we recommended that you do.
So if you feel like expounding, please do so in the comments.