Endorsements in the presidential race

One of the interesting things of any campaign is newspaper endorsements. Whether or not they sway any votes – and I think they do, particularly at the local level – newspapers across the country are rolling out theirs. The American Presidency Project is one site keeping the presidential endorsements from the 100 largest newspapers in the country all in one place.

Only nine of them did not endorse in 2008, which I found interesting. Among the nine are the two with the largest circulation, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. I have to wonder if those two papers endorsed, would we have a better idea as to the value of them.

Of the remaining seven, two are papers in Virginia: The Virginian-Pilot and The Roanoke Times, who share a common parent company. The Pilot announced in 2007 that they would no longer endorse in presidential contests, saying this (emphasis mine):

It would be different if we covered the presidential candidates, or had the access we do to local and state political leaders. Everyone can read the same news wires we do, access the same archives and do the same kind of political research, thanks to the Internet. Add the 24-hour news channels and talk radio, and it’s never been easier for Americans to get the scoop on presidential contenders and to draw their own conclusions.

I can understand this position, especially at that time. After all, it had been a long, long time since Virginia was a swing state. And in October 2007, I doubt anyone thought it would ever be. The 2008 contest changed that.

Today Virginia remains a swing state, and perhaps the closest contest in the country. Access to presidential candidates is no longer a concern. Both candidates have made trips to Hampton Roads and would have, presumably, been available for editorial board interviews.

Yes, the internet and the 24-hour news channels make it easier to get information on presidential contenders. The problem is the accuracy of that information. More and more, each outlet swings one way or the other, reflecting our own biases. Even more than that, as we have become a more polarized society, we only view sources with which we already agree. Someone commented the other day that the debates were the only time we all were watching the same thing.

Newspapers are among the last places where you have a sense that the opinions are based in fact and not simply a repeat of campaign talking points. Read the endorsements linked on that list. Agree or disagree, nearly all are well-reasoned (with the Richmond Times-Dispatch one being an outlier).

It won’t happen this cycle, but I believe the Pilot, Virginia’s largest newspaper, should revisit this for the next presidential cycle.

EDIT – Forgot to mention: Three of the papers that endorsed in 2008 no longer endorse.


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