Should Newspapers Endorse Political Candidates?

It’s just about time for the 2010 midterm election, and newspapers throughout the nation have started to endorse political candidates. This is nothing new; in fact many newspapers have been endorsing political candidates for years.

However, as proponents of objectivity and balance, is it right for newspapers to make these endorsements? Some would say it absolutely does. An online article from TPM argues that this practice “distorts the whole political process, engineers disequilibrium, and engenders unfair conditions that usurp the voting public’s sacred right to impartial, objective, just, and independent evaluation of ALL candidates in order to freely vote their conscience.”

Were this to be the case, the sheer number of newspapers endorsing one person over another before an election could present a significant problem in the voting process. The graphic below shows the distribution of endorsements from the 2008 presidential election to be both numerous, and in some areas, very one-sided.

That a newspaper’s official opinion on any one candidate could have influence over a voter’s choice is perceivable. It depends on whether or not the reader views an endorsement as the publication telling people who to vote for or as them expressing a viewpoint.

A newspaper’s editorial board generally makes the endorsement. Since the editorial section is one where viewpoints and opinions are encouraged, one could also argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a newspaper endorsing candidates. Howell Raines, former editorial editor for the New York Times, puts it like this:  ”A candidate endorsement is not an attempt to dictate to the reader what he ought to do. It’s more a reflection of our feeling that we have an obligation to be part of the civic dialogue. We have a specific obligation to our readers to let them know what our collective wisdom is.” 

Is it wrong, then, or is it a case of an editorial section exercising its right to express viewpoints? Regardless of what you decide, newspapers continue to endorse candidate, and will probably continue to do so indefinitely.

On the other hand, maybe the question is: do newspaper endorsements even make a difference?

You decide.

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