Should newspapers endorse political candidates?

Chris Daggett, independent candidate for New Jersey governor, who just received a newspaper endorsement from the Newark "Star-Ledger"

Chris Daggett, independent candidate for New Jersey governor, who just received a newspaper endorsement from the Newark "Star-Ledger"

Newspapers are often in the news after giving key endorsements to political candidates. Just recently, in fact, New Jersey’s largest newspaper – the “Star-Ledger” of Newark – endorsed the independent candidate for governor in what is now being called one of the most crucial elections in the country right now. In a daring move, the “Star-Ledger” endorsed Chris Daggett over Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine.

This type of attention is not uncommon around election times. During the 2008 general election, the Anchorage Daily News endorsed President Obama in a clear message to then-Gov. Sarah Palin – Republican candidate for vice president.

Newspapers have had a tradition of endorsing political candidates during the election season, and to receive an endorsement from a newspaper is considered a tremendous honor – as the many voters base their decisions on those of the publication. But some question whether newspapers practice ethical journalism when they endorse certain candidates. Isn’t the purpose of a newspaper to provide information to the public, allowing individuals to make up their own mind? When newspapers endorse a candidate, it gives people an excuse to question the biases in the newspaper’s coverage of particular candidates.

So, the question remains – should newspapers endorse candidates in elections? Do you think this goes against the newspaper’s role of providing information to the public and allowing people make up their own minds, or should newspapers – as the most knowledgeable in the community – let the public know what the best choice is?

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10 responses to “Should newspapers endorse political candidates?

  1. I think that the newspapers look past the ethical concerns when endorsing a candidate because our country is so divided. It is nearly impossible to remain “neutral” in the world of politics because our country identifies with bipartisanship so strongly. I think that newspapers should equally present both sides of the political debate, but they should still be allowed to endorse a candidate. Like you said, many people trust newspapers enough to follow the paper’s endorsement. I think people who identify with and trust a particular newspaper would be disappointed not to see an endorsement. Hard news is hard news, but there is always room for a columnist/opinion section, and I think people appreciate that.

  2. Just as we hope an individual reporter who inevitably holds an opinion is still able to report fairly and with truth, so too should a newspaper be able to endorse a candidate or a position without it getting in the way of its reporting ethics.

    What goes into a paper’s endorsement of a candidate, though? What does that even mean for a piece of paper to pass judgment? Surely, not everyone who writes for the paper feels that way. And if the public lets a newspaper tell them what the “best choice” is without a second thought or a second look at the issues, then the public is letting newspapers abuse their power.

    • mattvasilogambros

      Theoretically, the endorsement given by a newspaper represents the opinions of a 10-person editorial board – not necessarily the reporters. So, in a way, the reporters are separated from that whole process and takes ammo away from those who call reporters biased.

  3. I think the notion of newspapers offering any endorsements outside of the opinions page is inappropriate. It is very unlikely that I, a reader, will have the same criteria for a candidate that the editor of my newspaper does.

    There is no single “best choice” in an election. Each person has their own choice. I see this as a compromise of democracy to assume that there is one correct candidate. I look to the newspaper to offer up the facts about the candidates: voting records, resolutions they’ve written or collaborated on, their salary, etc. As a voter, I think it’s my job to judge the candidate, not the paper’s.

  4. People in the news industry are more dialed in on what’s going on in our government, so why shouldn’t newspapers be able to endorse a candidate? Blocking newspapers from endorsements seems ludicrous to me.

  5. I think the newspaper’s job is to inform not persuade. Therefore, I believe that newspapers should try not to endorse political candidates. Like another person commented, this will save the publication from being accused of being biased and in the long-run will be more beneficial for the reader, as they can develop their own stance.

    • How about when newspapers endorse candidates from both sides of the aisle? For example, The Des Moines Register endorsed Hillary Clinton and John McCain prior to the Iowa Caucuses. Is that bias?

  6. I don’t think it goes against any “newspaper role.” Aren’t there traditionally conservative papers and more liberal papers in the big cities? We’ve discussed this before on this blog and I still think it’s true. Newspapers are just a collection of people with opinions. They are responsible for reporting all of the facts. Once they have done that, the public is left to their own minds about making a decision and the paper should be allowed to as well. Elections affect everyone. They should be able to have a voice too.

  7. Reporting the facts will give readers enough information to make up their minds. This is true for all news, including political coverage.
    Reporting bias is a definite problem in all news. Even if a medium doesn’t ‘endorse’ a candidate bluntly, subtlety still exists. This was seen in the 2008 presidential election by more coverage on President Obama than Senator John McCain. Even though media was factual and nonbiased, the sheer lack of coverage showed favoritism for President Obama.
    I remember President Obama all over newspapers, magazines, on television and broadcasted across the radio every day. McCain was covered on all of these, but at a much lower rate. Also, President Obama had overwhelming coverage for his triumphs and less for his pitfalls, but McCain received the opposite.
    No, the choices are not in the hands of media but in the hands of the public. By showing favoritism to one person, choices are restricted. If I said apples and oranges are both fruits, then they’re established as healthy. But if I said apples are healthy, and they can be used to make applesauce then only said oranges are healthy and left out the orange juice part, the reader wouldn’t see the duel advantages of both.
    Being nonbiased is a tough steak to chew, because subtlety is like a dull knife: it doesn’t help.

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