It’s Time to Put Newspaper Political Endorsements to Bed

Newspapers are supposed to give us the news fairly, accurately, truthfully, and as objectively as possible.

If this is the case, why should newspapers officially endorse candidates for political office?

The Whitworthian, the newspaper of which I am a proud staff writer, is the official newspaper of Whitworth University, a small Presbyterian private university in Spokane, Washington. The school is in the middle of elections for next year’s ASWU (Associated Students of Whitworth University) executive positions.

Last year the Whitworthian endorsed Obe Quarless for ASWU President over Peter Cleary. Quarless ended up winning by the slimmest of margins. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he won by less than 10 votes.

With a student body of about 2,400 undergraduate students, it is not hard to imagine that the Whitworthian’s endorsement pushed Quarless over the edge. Whether he is a better president than Clearly would have been is beside the point. The point is that the newspaper swayed the election. The media, one could argue, decided the outcome.

This is not a new phenomena. Newspapers have endorsed presidential candidates since the early days of daily papers. In the 2004 presidential election, 418 newspapers across the country endorsed a candidate, or about 29 percent of newspapers in America. Most endorsed either George W. Bush or John Kerry.

The New York Times proudly says that its first endorsement was Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Afterward, the Times mostly endorsed Republicans. After Woodrow Wilson’s victory in 1912, they shifted to mostly endorsing Democrats. From John F. Kennedy onward, the Times have endorsed only Democrats. This should come as a surprise to no one.

But what is the point? If newspapers are supposed to give us fair and objective news, how can we trust their credibility if we know who they wish to see win an election? If a newspaper officially endorses Barack Obama, how do I know their coverage of Hillary Clinton and John McCain will be fair? We have legitimate reasons to doubt.

The media have many skeptics these days. It seems “the media” are blamed for every social problem facing our country today. People, especially young people, see the mainstream mass media as bias toward either the left or right. This might explain why people are either turning to alternative news sources (Jon Stewart, anyone?) or ignoring the news all together.

This must stop. But seeing newspapers endorsing candidates will do no good. The media are supposed to educate, enlighten, and inform us; not manipulate us. The Whitworthian is the only news source available to students regarding campus affairs. They have a monopoly on political and news coverage. By endorsing a specific candidate, they hold more power than other papers around the country do. Other newspapers have nation-wide competition. The Whitworthian has none.

I believe newspapers should stop endorsing candidates in order to protect their integrity, reputation, and fairness. I have no problem with specific writers endorsing candidates, but the editorial board should never take sides. The entity of the newspaper itself should stay neutral and only report the facts about the candidates and let their readers make the decisions for themselves.

I have no beef with the Whitworthian and am not criticizing their journalistic practices at all. I know the people on the staff and respect their free speech rights to endorse whomever they want. All I am saying is that I respectfully disagree with their decision to choose someone they want to see get elected.

Objectivity may be an illusion, but there are certain steps one can take to restore as much fairness as possible to journalism as the fourth estate of government. Journalists are supposed to keep the government in check, not choose who gets to be in government.

As for this upcoming ASWU election, I hope students will read the Whitworthian’s coverage of the candidate’s positions and disregard who has been endorsed.

We don’t need any more authority figures telling the people what to think. It’s time the media inform the people, not dictate to them how to behave. If more newspapers across the country follow this notion and stay neutral in political campaigns, the negative stigma placed against the media may dissipate.

If not, I may have to find a new profession.

*I would like to note that although I am a member of the Whitworthian staff, the views supplied on this blog do reflect the views of the newspaper. The Whitworthian should not be held responsible for my personal views and beliefs. I would also like to note that I am not making any commentary on Obe Quarless’ performance as ASWU President or Peter Cleary’s candidacy. That is all.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Media

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

2 Comments on “It’s Time to Put Newspaper Political Endorsements to Bed”

  1. Jasmine Linabary Says:

    Tim, I realize that voting is a larger issue that more people are intimately involved in than others, but couldn’t you make the same argument for any opinion an editorial board puts out? Based on your argument, couldn’t you say that any opinion an editorial board puts out biases a newspapers’ coverage?

    I think for me an editorial board’s purpose is not necessarily to represent the views of the entire newspaper, but a collective group coming together. But I understand that it is often viewed that way. What is interesting to me about that as opposed to an individual columnist is that you, ideally, bring together a group of people with different opinions and interests and the editorial reflects the majority or agreed upon position.

    I too have at times had challenges to the process of endorsements, but I also see their value. I don’t think they are saying, “Vote for who we tell you to,” so much as they are saying that these people have access to information and knowledge the general public may not be aware of, they have been closely following the coverage and often have done independent research into the candidates and here’s what they think. Endorsements also suggest what concerns newspapers have both about who they endorse and who they don’t. They are useful tools to express those to the candidates themselves and for accountability purposes later.

    I don’t think people should vote based on endorsements. I think they should use them as one tool to become more informed about the candidates, to ask questions, to motivate them to seek more information and maybe bring up challenges.

  2. timtakechi Says:

    Jasmine,

    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you reading my blog and your input. I personally believe that in a democracy like ours, voting is one of the most important acts of any citizen. I have no problem with a newspaper’s editorial board criticizing or taking sides with any other issue, but I believe voting is a special issue that a paper should stay neutral in.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: