Explaining why we do not endorse political candidates

Over the past few days, High Plains Pundit has been asked multiple times if we will endorse a certain candidate or group of candidates.

The answer is, we do not to endorse candidates. However, we do reserve the right to endorse an issue.

We have also received a number of emails and comments from people who have endorsed candidates. While many of these were well-presented, we choose not to publish them for the same reason we do not endorse candidates.

Our Founding Fathers wanted an electorate that could make its own decisions and not be fooled by rhetoric or someone else’s opinion.

Many media outlets across the U.S. are taking a step back and asking themselves if political endorsements are even valid anymore given the fact that presidential campaigns start at least three years before the actual election day on which we would elect a new president. Social media has a lot to do with that as well.

The journalism education nonprofit The Poynter Institute, of St. Petersburg, Florida, ponders the question that media endorsements could do more harm than good in today’s highly-divisive political climate. And then, there is plain and simple general confusion among readers to consider.

“Another issue? Many readers might not realize that there’s a difference between the editorial board of a newspaper and the news division. Readers simply see that ‘the paper’ endorsed a candidate. And that could lead them to believe that the entire paper favors a particular candidate,” writes Poynter’s Tom Jones.

For generations, media outlets have been explaining the difference between the opinion pages and the news pages. However, a percentage of readers will always believe endorsements show a newspaper’s coverage will be biased in favor of the candidate they are endorsing.

In general, media editorial boards meet separately from the rest of the newsroom, and an editorial board endorsement should have no effect on news coverage. But it’s a perception that has never really been overcome.

It is a shame political polarization has led many to blur what we see as clear and separate missions of the news pages and the opinion pages. However, we have long felt candidate endorsements are a bit too presumptuous. We feel the same way today — perhaps with an even greater intensity.

Once again, High Plains Pundit is not going to tell you how you should vote. It’s been a longstanding policy at High Plains Pundit, and traditionally we have not endorsed political candidates at any level.

We seem to get more company every election cycle. Many media outlets have stopped making endorsements, citing doubts about their impact and fears that in a polarized era endorsements put the credibility of the paper’s political coverage at risk.

We have certainly been accused of bias from both sides of the political spectrum. Even issues that seem clear cut to one voter may be perceived differently by another. And that’s each voter’s prerogative.

We expect that to continue and probably increase.

Some media outlets are adamant about the importance of the candidate endorsement and feel it’s a duty to furnish them. But more and more, we feel they are resented more than welcomed. Oftentimes, they are perceived as insulting, fostering further resentment among more people than they would ever influence.

And their influence has been questioned a lot over the past couple of decades.

A 2008 Pew Research Center for People and the Press survey found nearly 70 percent of responders said media endorsements had no impact on their vote, and they were slightly more likely to be swayed by an endorsement from another source.

We suspect that percentage has increased over the past decade. We’re certain that political polarization has.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote about media endorsements in her 2000 book, “Everything You Think You Know About Politics and Why You’re Wrong.”

“The direct effect of (candidate endorsement) editorials does not appear to be significant enough to find,” Jamieson said. “The effect of newspaper endorsements is largely created through advertising about them that is sponsored by the candidate.”

Simply put, a media endorsement basically gives one candidate more campaign fodder for advertising — most likely by paying for broadcast ads. Do we need any more of that?

We are always interested in ideas, strategies and actions. We believe our enthusiasm, or disappointment, for any particular candidate or issue tends to be exposed in editorials throughout the year or leading up to an election.

We will continue to editorialize on political issues and stances of candidates. We will always urge you to vote. We will not, however, tell you which candidate you should vote for.

Of course, we hope it’s an informed vote. And that’s what we will continue to strive to do: Inform you on important issues, especially at the local, state, and national level, so you can feel confident in your vote.

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