On Saturday I saw yet another newspaper endorse Hillary Clinton for president. The Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska’s largest daily newspaper, laid out their case for the Democratic nominee arguing that “the risk of a Donald Trump presidency is simply too great.”
The World-Herald said it was breaking tradition by supporting Clinton because the newspaper hadn’t supported a Democrat since 1932. I think they should’ve broken another tradition and not chosen anyone at all.
I’m not sure why we take it for granted that our newspapers pick sides in a presidential election. Newspapers aren’t voters. It’s a poisonous practice that only furthers suspicions of media bias and affects the way readers view that outlet.
Take the New York Times for example. They’re one of the many standard-bearers of respected journalism in our country. Millions of readers depend on them every day to deliver “all the news that’s fit to print” accurately and without bias. Yet every election cycle they stoop down to the level of politically-leaning blogs like Breitbart or the Huffington Post in the name of an archaic tradition.
You can see that bias seeping into their political coverage now, as much as the newspaper may claim that the Editorial Board is a separate entity. When is the last time you saw a takedown piece on Clinton on the front page, above the fold of the Times? Donald Trump’s history with women and Twitter rants may be the better read, but the Times’ utmost obligation is to be fair and balanced. To outwardly support one political candidate over another is a direct slap in the face of that goal.
I’m not saying newspapers shouldn’t have opinions. I like reading commentary from individual writers and seeing them make a case for something I may not agree on. On Friday, I read a great article from New York Daily News columnist Gersh Kuntzman about Ken Bone, the star of the second presidential debate, and how ignorant he was. I don’t agree with Kuntzman; I think Ken Bone was probably nervous as hell being on national television and kept his question simple to avoid sounding like an idiot. But political hot takes, when written right, can be enlightening and open our minds to another point of view.
Yet Gersh Kuntzman is a person. The Daily News is a publication. Paul Krugman is a person. The New York Times is a publication. Publications shouldn’t have opinions. In fact, I don’t care about their opinions. I’ve either made up my mind about a candidate or remain undecided. If I’m the former, a public endorsement will only anger and distance me from an otherwise reputable source of news. If I’m the latter, I’ll be forced to see the choices through a biased lens that I never asked for.
Even networks like MSNBC and Fox don’t publicly support candidates. They may slant their political coverage but they don’t come out and say “We’re endorsing X and here’s why you should too” then continue on with the day’s news, expecting audiences to forget what they just heard.
So why do newspapers continue to do so? The media is supposed to represent the best about our kind. As human beings, we’ve figured out a way to step back and view our present society through a sophisticated, objective lens so that we can make intelligent, unified decisions about our future. Choosing sides doesn’t do that — it only deepens our divide, the same divide that columnists will lament about year after year, wondering where we went wrong.
* * *