Monday, October 23, 2006

Double Standards for Print

As a reporter, if I ever went on air after an interview with a politician and said: “don’t vote for that person... they’re clearly a waste of time; you should vote for the other candidate because that’s who I endorse," I would lose my job.

CNN doesn’t publicly endorse candidates, ABC7 in Chicago doesn’t and even though FOX News has a few talk shows where a host is more vocal about his or her political views, the last time I checked, FOX does not release press statements in which they tell the public to vote for a particular candidate. So, it is beyond my understanding how a newspaper is able to do so.

I consider the Chicago Tribune’s recent and public endorsement of a Republican candidate, and the Chicago Sun Time’s similar endorsement of a Democrat governor, to be quite disheartening. I think it is terrible for any journalist or journalistic institution to reveal personal bias.

Granted all institutions, individuals and establishments have a particular leaning towards left or right. However, it’s very bizarre for a medium upon which the public relies for at least semi-objective news, to blatantly disclose an interest in a particular political party.

As a Chicago Tribune reader or Chicago Sun Times reader, knowing the political affiliation of each particular paper discredits any coverage the newspaper has on the candidate that is not in its favor. I cannot fathom a mainstream news channel plastering “Proud Supporters of Bush” prior to a broadcast, so why can’t newspapers hold themselves to the same standards?



At Tuesday, October 24, 2006, Blogger Erin said...

Though I take your point, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. Yes, there is a divide between print and broadcast news on the issue of endorsements, but that's because in some respects, the two forms of journalism are simply different. And there is a history of broadcast news organizations making endorsements or political statements--it's just not as common these days.

As for newspaper endorsements: I think that they are a valid part of the editorial responsibilities of a newspaper. The paper I grew up with--The Des Moines Register--recently ran an editorial on just that subject.

In it, one editor argued that: "we offer our opinions 365 days a year. So why would we choose to be silent on the relative merits of people who'll be shaping the public policy that we'll be praising or slamming the rest of the year?"

I tend to agree. Most newspapers have an editorial section every day in which they put together their own unique take on the area's news and personalities. Sure, most newspapers have a known political leaning, but that's something most readers acknowledge going into it.

And most papers don't go strictly by party lines--the Chicago Tribune, for example, recently endorsed Republican Judy Baar Topinka for governor. But they also endorsed Democrat Tammy Duckworth for the open 6th district congressional seat.

Endorsements may or may not have an effect on election day. But the old-fashioned process of listening to candidates and then making a decision on their issues is an important part of our system of the press.

At Tuesday, October 24, 2006, Anonymous AJ said...

I don't mind newspapers picking a candidate, as long as the endorsement is clearly labeled and appears on the Editorial Page.

I was talking to another student about the issue, and he pointed out that newspapers are supposed to be more informed on an issue because they've been following the candidate in an "unobjective" manner all year, so they are in a position to make an informed decision.

Also, I think it's important to look at the way endorsements are done. It's not as though a paper just announces the candidate it supports. The editorial will include reasons, presumably based on the paper's coverage, which can then guide a reader by giving them things to think about.

I will admit that I'd feel strange if WGN or NBC ended their broadcast with "And we support so and so for such and such." But maybe that's just because I didn't grow up with that. Also, if the endorsement was spoken on the program by an anchor, it would feel like it was coming from an individual as opposed to representing the news organization.

At Wednesday, October 25, 2006, Anonymous TD said...

I agree. I think it is a double standard that newspapers can publically endorse candidates but broadcast stations cannot.

Also, if a newspaper endorses a candidate, how can we be sure that everyone writing about the election races endorses that candidate?

Newspapers are supposed to show as little bias as possible, right?


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