A great example of why media endorsements no longer matter


Imagine how self-important you’d have to be as an institution to decide that the public so craves your political advice and opinion that you need to air an hour-long program dedicated to sharing your painstaking deliberations over who ought to be the Democratic presidential nominee.

Next, imagine you’re so self-important that not only do you air such a program, demonstrating your inflated notion of how badly everyone craves your political opinion, but you also decide to conclude your deliberation by offering only a prevarication: “In a break with convention, the [New York Times] editorial board has chosen to endorse two separate Democratic candidates for president: Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.”

The Times correctly deduced that the only thing more progressive than endorsing one woman for president is endorsing two.

All in all, this reads like an editorial board that largely wanted to endorse Klobuchar, but who recognized that not endorsing Warren would be seen as driving a stake into the heart of her candidacy. The board may also have concluded that endorsing only Klobuchar would be a “waste,” as the prospects for the Minnesota senator don’t look good. (She’s still not hitting double digits in Iowa, where she’s focused almost all of her recent attention.) Without saying so explicitly, the Times offered two separate criteria: their favorite candidate, and their favorite candidate with a realistic shot at winning the nomination.

Even before this rather absurd spectacle that the Times treated us all to yesterday evening, I don’t think very many Americans were breathlessly awaiting the paper’s conclusion. I have a hard time believing that any sizable percentage of the primary or general electorate casts his or her vote based on the determination of any newspaper editorial board, even one with the readership of the New York Times. (Never mind the fact that the paper hasn’t endorsed a Republican for president in more than six decades.)

But after this double endorsement, the Times board has underscored precisely how silly it is for a gaggle of media elites to tell Americans how they ought to vote — especially when they themselves can’t even make up their minds.

As the 2020 election races get underway, many of our readers have asked us if we will be endorsing any of the candidates.

First, we do not endorse candidates. Our official policy is to provide the voters the best information we can about each candidate. It should be the voters' responsibility to elect the candidates, not the media.

Once upon a time, endorsements from newspapers and magazines were all there were; if you got chosen, it could provide a big boost to your campaign.

Then along came radio, and while most radio stations did not endorse, they did give candidates a chance to make their own case and create their own positive impression on the voters. This continued when television came along, and today, even social media plays a role in demonstrating a candidate’s popularity.

My point is that these days, there is no one thing that determines whether a candidate will win. Getting endorsements is now a very small part of a much bigger picture.

Media endorsements alone no longer matter the way they did 10, 15, or 20 years ago, I would argue that the endorsement of candidates by creditable local organizations carry far more weight than media endorsements.

I have also found that the public as a whole does not trust media endorsements. However, the public will trust media organizations that bring them the actual facts and information about each candidate.

The role of media in elections should be to separate fact from fiction, not to tell you who to vote for.

In truth, endorsements matter primarily to the base of the party that is being endorsed, as it is obviously an honor to be endorsed by anyone, especially if the reasons for the endorsements are fair and factual. I would posit that the moment that the media outlet endorses any candidate, it has lost credibility altogether.

In the grand scheme of things, news should be unbiased – journalism is simply designed to be a check and balance to power, to be informative, and at times educational, and any news outlet that adheres to these standards will always be well regarded. News outlets were never designed to segment themselves to a polarized electorate.

Many say that standing on principal matters, but in the bastion of politics, I personally don’t want to know where a paper stands. I want to know that I am getting fair carefully vetted facts, that the right questions are being asked, and that the checks and balances are in tact.

So, we ask the question again: Do media endorsements matter?

Media endorsements tell the electorate that koolaid of their candidate of choice is available on a daily basis. It warns the electorate of the possibility of stories impacting their chosen candidates being buried on page six or nixed all together. It means to the reader that red meat is all they’ll get in order to make a healthy decision with their vote.

Newspapers alongside cable news should take a very hard look at this long-lived tradition and open an entirely new market to the balance of the electorate by not practicing this stale tradition. Giving 100 percent of the truth about 100 percent of all candidates, avoiding talking points of candidates, and delving deeper into each better serves the public in mass.

As an observer of media, and as part of the the institution, I for one, do not subscribe to the ideas displayed by some media companies who do great harm and a horrible disservice to an electorate bombarded by ads, or worse, those that are hungry for facts.

Journalists should avoid the human need for popularity and go for the unbiased story rather than lower themselves to simple entertainment, and rather allow the reverse – allow the people to endorse news outlets.

The public deserves better from the media.

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