Wondering about endorsements' value

Joni Ernst is stiff-arming Iowa newspaper editorial boards in her bid to become that state’s next U.S. senator.

She is following the trail blazed four years ago right here in Texas by Gov. Rick Perry, who did the very same thing, watched most of the papers around the state endorse his opponent, and then won re-election by a healthy margin.

I’ve taken note of this already in a blog post.


Now comes the corollary question: Do these endorsements matter any longer?

I wrestled with the question for many years before my daily journalism career came to a screeching halt in August 2012.

It’s no secret to anyone that newspapers are changing before our eyes. Their role as community leaders is changing as well. Sadly, many companies that run newspapers are giving in to this trend and are devaluing their opinion pages and retreatingĀ from their traditional role as community leaders.

So, Republicans Ernst and Perry have decided to forgo the ritual that politicians used to say they enjoyed, which was to seek newspaper endorsements in their election and/or re-election campaigns. They seem to understand that newspapers no longer carry the clout they once did. Politicians used to call on editorial boards, proclaiming that they relished the give-and-take these meetings produced.

Newspaper editors — and you can count me as one of them — also used to get much from these encounters. I worked at the Amarillo Globe-News for 17 years, and 8 months and participated in many more of these meetings that I can remember. And I always, without question, learned something new about my community or my state during every election cycle.

We would reach consensus on who to recommend for public office, craft our statement, publish it and then let the chips fall.

That process now seems to be slipping away as politicians decide they don’t need these endorsements.

Rick Perry didn’t need them in 2010. I’m betting Joni Ernst — win or lose — won’t need them now.

People are forming their opinions using other media. They scour the Internet in search of their version of the truth, which isn’t hard to find, no matter your political orientation.

It’s interesting to me that politicians most likely to blow off these endorsement interviews lean heavily to the right, such as Perry and Ernst.

We’ll know for certain that editorial board endorsements really no longer matter when progressives stop seeking them.

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