Newspaper endorsements don’t matter as much as they have historically.
People get their news and commentary from myriad sources. They turn less and less to newspaper editorial pages for guidance, counsel, wisdom and thoughtful commentary.
This election year is going to give those who write editorial commentary for a living a special challenge.
Who of the two major-party presidential candidates will get their endorsement? Will either of them get an endorsement? Will newspaper editorial boards throw up their collective hands and ask, “What in the hell is the point?”
I did that kind of work for most of my 37 years in daily print journalism.
I wrote editorials for a small daily suburban newspaper in Oregon City, Ore., from 1979 until 1984; I did the same thing as editorial writer and later editor of the editorial page for the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise; then I became editorial page editor of the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News in 1995, a job I held until August 2012.
The choices this year appear — in the minds of many journalists — to be pretty grim. Dismal. Miserable. Who gets the paper’s nod — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican Donald J. Trump?
Now it’s time for an admission: On several occasions during my three-plus decades in daily journalism, I wrote editorial endorsements with which I disagreed. I don’t have that burden to bear these days.
In 1980, knowing my publisher could not endorse President Carter for re-election, I drafted an editorial endorsing independent candidate John B. Anderson. The publisher, in Oregon City, looked at it, brought the draft out to me and said, “No can do.” We endorsed Ronald Reagan for president; yes, I swallowed hard and wrote it.
I worked for Republican-leaning newspaper publishers throughout my career. Every four years I would huddle with the publisher and go through the motions of arguing my case for the candidate of my choosing … only to be told that “we” are going to endorse the other guy.
My final stop, of course, was in Amarillo, where I worked for a corporate ownership that is fervently Republican. Yes, through several presidential election cycles, the discussion of presidential endorsements was brief and quite, shall we say, “frank.”
Bob Dole got our nod in 1996, George W. Bush got it in 2000 and 2004, John McCain earned it in 2008. I was tasked with overseeing the publication of all of them. I cannot remember which of those I actually wrote.
The task facing editorialists this year will be daunting. I’m glad it’s their call and no longer mine.
I’ll be waiting with bated breath to see how my former employer comes down in this year’s race. Clinton has zero chance of being endorsed by a newspaper owned by Morris Communications Corp. I also doubt they’ll go with the Libertarian ticket led by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.
Trump is the last man standing. If the Globe-News takes the plunge, I’ll await with interest how it will set aside all the ridiculous assertions, lies, the candidate’s utter lack of knowledge of anything and the absence of any grounding principles.
Take my word for it, the corporate bosses are a conservative bunch and I will be interested to see how — or if — they set aside those principles just to recommend someone simply because he pledges to “build a wall” and “make America great again.”
Could I write that one? A friend and former colleague of mine was fond of saying, “If you take The Man’s money, you play by The Man’s rules.” Thus, I was able to justify setting aside my own personal taste and philosophy to do The Man’s bidding.
This time? I couldn’t.
I’d walk out before having to write anything that recommends Trump’s election as president.
Good luck, my former colleagues, as you deliberate over this one.