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'Time' Magazine's Editor Wonders Why Newspapers Endorse Candidates.

In his weekly letter to readers coming in tomorrow's edition of Time magazine, its editor, Rick Stengel asks why newspapers bother endorsing political candidates.

An excerpt follows. The piece is already available at*

I confess that I've never quite understood why newspapers endorse presidential candidates. Sure, I know the history and the tradition, the fact that newspapers in the 18th and 19th centuries were often affiliated with political parties, but why do they do it now? Why do it at a time when the credibility and viability of the press are at all-time lows? More important, why do it at a time when readers, especially young readers, question the objectivity of newspapers in particular and the media in general?

Young news consumers are suspicious about traditional authority. They prize objectivity, straightforwardness and transparency. I doubt there's a reader under 30 who gets why newspapers endorse presidential candidates -- and most of the ones I talk to ask the following: How can a newspaper be objective on the front page when it endorses a candidate on the editorial page? They're dubious about whether the reporter who covers Hillary Clinton can be objective if his newspaper has endorsed Barack Obama -- and vice versa. And they're right. At a time when newspapers are trying to ensure their survival by attracting younger readers, the idea of endorsements is both counterproductive and an anachronism. It's certainly the prerogative of newspapers and their owners to endorse candidates, but in doing so they are undermining the very basis for their business, which is impartiality. It's a recipe for having less influence, not more.

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Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:Feb 21, 2008
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