Tag Archives: editorial endorsements

Time of My Life, Part 12: Whom or whether to ‘endorse’

We have entered an era of enhanced distrust or mistrust of the media. That wasn’t always the case and I was proud to practice a craft that the public held in much higher regard than it does now.

We weren’t universally adored and admired, but come election time we had politicians lining up — quite literally — waiting for a chance to be interviewed by those of us who comprised an “editorial board.” They sought our “endorsement” for the campaign they were waging for whatever public office was on the line.

It’s a bit different these days. Politicians are forgoing those meetings with editorial boards. The most memorable “snub” occurred in 2010 when Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided he wouldn’t speak to any editorial boards in the state. He said he preferred to take his re-election message “directly to the people.” We got the message. What did we do? The Amarillo Globe-News decided to invite his Democratic Party challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White, to talk to us. White accepted. He came to Amarillo and sat down for an hour or so talking about issues affecting his campaign and the state.

The paper then recommended White for election as governor. We were far from alone. However, judging from the response we got from our readers, you would have thought we had just endorsed Satan himself. The anger was palpable based on the mail we got from our heavily Republican-leaning readership.

It didn’t matter. Gov. Perry was re-elected in a breeze. And he established a trend for others to follow:


One of the more fascinating after effects of these editorial endorsement interviews — particularly with candidates running for local offices — was that every election cycle proved to be a learning experience for me. I always learned something at some level about the community where I lived that I didn’t know. Whether it was in Oregon City, Ore., or Beaumont or Amarillo in Texas, I learned something new about the community.

I was able to interview candidates who were invested deeply in their communities and they would share their often heartfelt experiences growing up there. I tried to take something new away from those encounters. Did I learn all there was to know about Clackamas County, Ore., or the Golden Triangle or the High Plains region? No. However, I did know a lot more about all those areas when I left them than I knew going in.

I was privileged to meet a future president of the United States, U.S. senators, members of the U.S. House, movers and shakers of all stripes, men and women who wanted to serve on city councils, or county commissions, they sought legislative office, various statewide public offices, school boards . . . you name it, we met ’em.

It always was a privilege to get to know these individuals, even those who weren’t serious in their quest. Believe me, we encountered our share of those as well.

They were willing to subject themselves to the grilling we provided them. They withstood our sometimes-difficult questions. There is something good to be said about them, too — and the process in which we all took part.

Would a career have survived Donald Trump era?

I don’t think much any longer about the career I left behind nearly six years ago.

It was a fruitful, modestly successful career in print journalism. It ended quickly and unhappily — in the moment.

As I look back on it today and as I ponder the direction the nation took in November 2016 when it elected Donald John Trump to the presidency, I am actually grateful to have been “reorganized” out of a job I thought I was doing pretty well.

My question centers on this: Could I have survived in my position as editorial page editor of a conservative newspaper, serving a conservative community as Donald Trump campaigned for and then served in the highest office in the land?

The answer I am sure is a categorical, emphatic “No! As in hell no!”

Over the years I wrote editorials for newspapers in Texas and in Oregon I had to write opinions with which I disagreed. I wrote editorials endorsing candidates for public office who didn’t get my vote in the ballot box. I would compose editorial editorials about policy proclamations that I found objectionable; or I would write editorials against policies I supported.

That’s all part of working for The Man. Or, as a former colleague of mine once reminded me, “If you take the man’s money you play by the man’s rules.”

How would I have done during the presidency of Donald Trump?

Not well … at all!

I am trying to imagine how I would react if my corporate bosses had told me, “We’re going to endorse Trump over Hillary Clinton; please draft an editorial for us to examine before we publish it.”

Trump would have presented a serious dilemma for me. I cannot stand the thought of this man occupying the presidency, let alone making decisions that affect all Americans. It’s visceral, man. It’s personal. His prior record is replete with examples of fraud — moral, financial, you name it. He brought not a scintilla of interest — let alone record — of public service to the presidency.

How in the world could I possibly say anything positive about this guy? I cannot.

Yes, I have used this blog to speak positively since he became president. There have been damn few opportunities. I’ve taken them, but I’ll admit to swallowing hard prior to writing those positive words.

Could I have worked for an organization that throws its corporate support behind this charlatan/president and then demanded that I be the paper’s mouthpiece?

Not in a million years. Never.

Thus, I am glad to be on my own.

So much for ‘editorial autonomy’


I worked for four newspaper “groups” during my nearly 37 years in daily journalism. They were, in order: Newhouse Publications, Scripps League, the Hearst Corp., and Morris Communications.

They all said publicly that they didn’t “dictate” from corporate HQ’s how their individual newspapers formulated their editorial policies.

It was a bit of a challenge to explain all of that to readers and officials, but I managed.

Well, today the Morris Communications company that runs the paper where my career ended has put to rest the quaint notion of editorial “autonomy.” It has declared that all of its editorial pages today have endorsed Donald J. Trump for election to the presidency of the United States.

I haven’t yet read the Amarillo Globe-News’s “endorsement,” given that it hasn’t been posted on its online edition; I just looked this morning and couldn’t find it. Here, though, is the Florida Times-Union’s statement about the campaign. I’m guessing it’s being repeated here in West Texas:


The CEO of the Morris company, William Morris IV, has written what he’s called an “explanation” of the endorsement. It really is nothing of the kind. It’s actually a vapid restatement of platitudes and clichés. I don’t know Morris well, but I’ve had enough exposure to him to expect nothing more from this individual. Take a look:


My favorite cliché is this one: “While this endorsement reflects our opinion, we want readers to know that this does not influence our news coverage. Newsrooms run independently from our editorial pages.”

Well, no s***!

I won’t delve too deeply into this statement. It’s too shallow, frankly, for any serious examination.


But what fascinates me about it is its timing. Today is Sunday. The election occurs on Tuesday. That gives readers of Morris papers today and Monday to comment, to respond.

Hmmm …

One of my former editors — a mentor and a friend to this day — had a name for this kind of timing. He called it a “last-minute dump.” He disallowed letters to the editor that came in too close to the end of a political campaign. His belief was that readers deserved the opportunity to respond — either positively or negatively — to what was published.

That was a policy I sought to follow during my decades practicing that craft.

The advent of early voting usually meant that newspapers would get their editorial endorsements “on the record” at the start of the early voting period. In Texas, that window opened on Oct. 24 and it closed this past Friday. The idea would be to let voters know the paper’s view on campaigns, candidates and issues prior to readers voting on them; it would give readers the chance — if they desired — to use the paper’s perspective to help them make their own decision.

Texas Panhandle — and readers of all the papers served by Morris anywhere in the country — won’t get that chance today. They’ll open their newspaper and read an editorial endorsing Trump and will have virtually no chance to comment. No chance to condemn it or praise it. No opportunity to add some context.

Oh, they’ll get online and put some social media chatter out there. A letter to the editor? Something that would be published on the printed page after being examined by the folks who run the editorial pages? Forget about it!

That, folks, is a last-minute dump.

If only Will Morris would have explained that strategy to his company’s newspaper readers.

Here’s a profound non-endorsement


USA Today has done something I didn’t think I’d ever see in a major newspaper editorial page.

It published an editorial non-endorsement of one candidate for president while at the same time saying it could not endorse that candidate’s opponent.

I’ve read the editorial twice. I might read it again and again, looking for some nugget of justification for the USA Today editorial board’s rationale. Wish me luck.

Here is the editorial in question:


In its 34-year existence, USA Today never had opined on a presidential campaign. Until now.

It has declared Republican nominee Donald J. Trump to be patently, profoundly unfit for the office of president of the United States. It lists its reasons for reaching that consensus among its editorial board members.

The paper is categorical in its declaration. It also is correct.

Then, near the end of it, the paper says it cannot endorse Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, who the paper states has too many flaws of her own. Still, the paper states:

“Some of us look at her command of the issues, resilience and long record of public service — as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of State — and believe she’d serve the nation ably as its president,”

OK, what now?

USA Today says it cannot recommend a vote for Clinton. It urges voters only to withhold their vote for Trump … for the myriad reasons it declares forcefully in its editorial.

No vote for Clinton? A “hell no” vote against Trump?

Does that mean Hillary Clinton can boast of an editorial endorsement from USA Today after all?

My head is spinning.