Endorsements not forthcomingPublished 10:20am Monday, November 5, 2012 Updated 12:23pm Monday, November 5, 2012
I’ve had a couple people ask whether The Journal will be doing endorsements this year. The blunt answer: No.
That’s not entirely true. Over the past month, our editorials have taken stands on several ballot issues, including the marriage amendment (no), the voter ID amendment (no) and the Fergus Falls School District outdoor facilities referendum (Yes).
But we have not endorsed candidates, and with two days before the election, we obviously aren’t going to.
Frankly, I wish we could have. We didn’t, mostly, because it was a question of resources. But there’s also an element that we have a lot to lose, and not much to gain in doing so.
The deal is, our newsroom staff is limited, and in order to do endorsements right, we needed to conduct in-depth interviews with each of the candidates, have a group discussion discussing our thoughts, hammer out a group opinion, and then, of course, write the endorsements.
That’s a lot of work, and I frankly would rather have my reporters writing stories that are of interest to our readers.
Other newspapers that do endorsements have much larger newsrooms (sometimes I question what some of their staff members do all day). Spending lots of time weighing an endorsement and then crafting its precise words sounds like a lot of fun if you have nothing better to do.
There’s also the issue of what our newspaper has to lose. If we endorse a Republican candidate, then a business owner who supports a Democrat might decide not to advertise with us, and vice versa. Frankly, I think that’s not only immature, but bad for business, because if advertising brings in customers, stopping advertising will hurt a business’s bottom line. But believe me, it happens. Newspapers like the New York Times clearly don’t give it a second thought, and neither would I if I were working for them.
In other words, other newspapers do endorsements simply because they can.
There’s also the issue of agreement. I certainly have my opinions on issues and candidates. I have expressed my opinions on political issues often in this column. My staff, or my boss, for that matter, does not necessarily agree with me. Ultimately, I make the call, I guess (unless my boss says otherwise, which he hasn’t). And my opinion is, if you read my column enough, I suspect you already know who I’m likely to vote for.
Most of all, I have to wonder whether you as a voter actually care who we as a newspaper endorse. I mean, are you as a voter going to read a particular endorsement, and then run right down to the poll and vote for whom we tell you to vote for? I’d think not.
A public policy center did a survey to determine whether readers were influenced by endorsements. The answer, clearly, was no.
This article went on to say that editors of newspapers who still do endorsements say they “continue the conversation” about candidates. Based on the ad nauseum amount of media coverage, both free and paid, about our political candidates, do voters really need a push from newspapers to continue the conversation? I think not.
In fact, from what I can determine, the primary purpose of endorsements is to give the political candidate who is the recipient of them another television ad idea.
Frankly, The Journal doesn’t need to be a candidate’s free public relations firm.
So call me a chicken, call me lazy, call me the leader of a media organization which refuses to accept its role as the “watchdog” of our political system.
Whatever. We’re still not doing endorsements. Live with it.
• • •
With the Wolves opening the season this weekend, I have to say that I am somewhat excited to see the product. Sure, they have to do without their stars, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, for a month or more.
But they have acquired some nice, experienced, intelligent NBA talent in Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy and others, players who know how to play the game, and can be effective in coach Rick Adelman’s system.
With the Vikings likely going down the tubes in the second half of the season and the NHL still locked out, the Wolves, no matter how healthy, are my only hope at this point, anyway.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org