The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 26, 2012

Santori: Endorsements don’t fit with fairness objective, new media landscape

(Continued)

Even earlier than that, Neuharth pointed out that “Readers want to be fully informed about issues and candidates. They welcome debate. But they rebel when we dictate. They resent being told how to vote.”

The editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal, which also does not endorse candidates, said the editorial page has a more fundamental purpose, which is to “stick up for those principles” it deems important. The St. Paul Pioneer Press also discontinued its endorsements this year.

Jay Rosen, chairman of the journalism department at New York University, was reported to have said that endorsements were “a tool of power” that newspapers paraded out as their civic authority in leadership. Editorial writers would proclaim that, because of their access, they were more knowledgeable and thoughtful and could be more credible in their opinion. Even if this were true at one time, it’s not the case anymore. Today, voters have access to a lot more information — just as much access in many cases as do editorial writers.

I can’t speak for all newspapers, but I don’t think newspapers should be in the business of making kings — or telling people how they should think. Regardless of who is sitting in the seats of power, each should be held accountable to whom they represent, and that’s the job of news organizations.

An endorsement appears to give a seal of approval and taints the perception of readers of our true intent, regardless of how hard we work at fairness. That puts our reporters in a difficult position. Ending endorsements doesn’t mean there will be no opinions about the candidates.

These will appear as signed columns from various authors. They could be opinions of a syndicated columnist or a particular Free Press writer, not the opinion of the Free Press editorial board. We will, however, recount what issues we feel are important to this region and this state and raise questions we feel need to be addressed.

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