Sunday, October 28, 2012

Endorse? You've got to be kidding.

One of my loyal readers thinks I ought to use this space to endorse a presidential candidate.

Uh, no.

One of the better things about not being an editor is that I’m no longer bound to write endorsement editorials that (1) I don’t really believe and (2) ultimately prove I’m an idiot.

Allow me to explain No. 1.

Depending on who was the current owner of my newspaper – there were five different owners during my stint – there was a specific protocol for choosing a presidential candidate and sometimes a U.S. Senate or gubernatorial candidate.

It kind of works like this: If you own a newspaper, you get to endorse whomever you want. It’s one of the perks.

And the people who own newspapers, or control the newspapers, generally are of the Republican bent, which I know belies the current “liberal media” thinking. Well, reporters and editors tend to lean more Democratic, or at least did at one time. So, there’s that.

In some presidential election years and depending on the owner, I would get a memo something like this:
“We are giving our editors a choice in the presidential election this year. You can endorse Bob Dole or no one.”

I’m not making this up. 

Because I considered myself a fairly loyal soldier and a halfway decent writer, I opted to write the endorsement editorial as if I were the owner of the newspaper, whether or not I actually felt as strong as the piece I was trying to write.

It is true, however, that oftentimes I would agree with the corporate line, so there was no internal struggle as I typed the editorial “we” as in “We strongly endorse.…”

Bob Dole?

The late Harry Horvitz, who was the first owner I worked under, allowed his top editors and managers (I was not among them) to decide which presidential candidate to endorse based on, among other things, the community the newspaper happened to serve. Horvitz, however, was the exceptional owner.

To their credit, most of the owners didn’t give a darn about the other political endorsements their newspapers would make, giving the local editorial board all the power it needed, which takes us to my No. 2 concern.

Most of the endorsements we made as a newspaper were made after candidate interviews, discussions with reporters and editors and digesting community feedback. There really was thought put behind those endorsements with the question “Who will best serve the community?” hopefully answered.

There were times, however, when our endorsed candidates failed to deliver satisfactorily after the election, causing me and my newspaper great pain and embarrassment.

How could we be so wrong about this guy? Well, it happens.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer can attest to that. Ohio’s largest newspaper endorsed convicted former officeholders Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo repeatedly over the years. I bet the paper would like those editorials back.

Newspapers seem to making fewer endorsements these days, bowing to public sentiment against them, although I found over the years that many voters wanted some kind of ballot direction, including a recap of endorsements just prior to Election Day.

I’m not sure I agree with the no-endorsement trend. It seems to me that daily newspapers are willingly yielding the power they once had to other entities, such as the “Saturday Night Live” troupe or Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

So be it.

Perhaps we’ve come to a realization that a Barack Obama second term or a Mitt Romney presidency is nothing more than a crap shoot anyway. So, why tempt fate with that editorial “we” stuff?

I just hope to heck the winner delivers.

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1 comment:

Dan DesForges said...

Why didn't you explain the idiot part?