On the EDge: Take the Clinton endorsements seriously

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OPINION – While the notion of relying on a rolled-up piece of newsprint tossed onto your doorstep every morning for news is as out of fashion as shoulder pads on a dress, parachute pants and skinny ties, the concept of informed news outlets making informed recommendations for the presidency is not.

That’s why even though many from the right, or wherever Donald Trump is coming from these days, scoff at the legion of newspaper endorsements that have gone Hillary Clinton’s way, those endorsements are important.

It was fairly predictable that Clinton would get the blessing of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, but there are some remarkable defections from the conservative ranks.

The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer and other newspapers that have not endorsed a Democrat for the presidency in more than 100 years – or ever in some cases – have advised readers to vote for Clinton. Even USA Today, a newspaper that has never made a presidential endorsement, published an editorial advising readers to vote for “anybody but” Trump.

There’s still a biggie hanging in the wind out there: The Wall Street Journal. It will probably, when the ink finally hits the presses, go for Trump. Traditionally a Republican newspaper, The Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is pals with former FOX News honcho Roger Ailes, now firmly ensconced in the Trump camp.

A Clinton endorsement by The Journal would be an incredible upset and pretty much seal Trump’s fate.

Already, Trump and his crew are sniffing their noses at the endorsements, chalking them up as the result of media bias.

You can forget that.

At the major metro level, newspapers are a floating split that flip-flops between conservative and liberal depending on the news cycle, but out in the suburbs and in rural America, where newspapers still have some traction, the smaller dailies and weeklies are largely conservative. During my career, I have only worked for one liberal newspaper, The Los Angeles Times. Every other newspaper had a conservative bent.

It’s just the way it is.

And as far as the decision-making that goes into selecting a candidate to endorse, as somebody who has been in the business more years than he would care to admit, the game ain’t rigged, nobody’s collecting fat paychecks from special interest groups and nobody’s getting any special favors.

I sat on the editorial board of the local newspaper from 1998 until 2010. I have been a part of that endorsement process. I have sat with fellow editorial board members across the table from every local, state and federal hopefuls, with the exception of presidential candidates, seeking support. They would come in usually two, three or four times during election season to meet with the board and face a political inquisition. Even the Republicans.

It was something we took very seriously and never once did we get any input or influence from our corporate office or, for that matter, listen to the opinions of the local businesses that bought advertising from us. In fact, I can remember a few times when we actually lost a considerable amount of advertising dollars because we would not change a political position.

It was serious business, and although we all had our own beliefs, when it came down to selecting a candidate to endorse, I truly believe we had the public’s best interest at heart.

Most of the time, quite frankly, I would agree with most of the board and vote against Democratic candidates, not out of any party thing, but because most of them over the years have simply not been qualified to run and did not deserve an endorsement.

In fact, the year Democrat Scott Matheson ran against Jon Huntsman for governor, the deciding vote on who to endorse was mine.

Although I lean left and thought Matheson was a likable, extremely valid candidate, my vote went to Huntsman, who I thought was a notch above.

I always believed the interests of our readers should be placed above our personal ideals when it came to making an endorsement and that it was our responsibility to advise who we thought to be the best candidates at all levels.

That’s also why I always thought our mother ship, USA Today, took a coward’s walk by refusing to make endorsements.

I always believed – still do – that a news agency’s job is to serve as a watchdog for the community, to offer leadership, to inform.

Now, there are news groups that are fairly well entrenched in their political stance.

That’s why a Washington Post endorsement of Donald Trump would be as outside-of-the-box as a Wall Street Journal endorsement of Hillary Clinton. To call either occurrence shocking would be an understatement.

That’s why these unusual decisions by The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, The San Diego Union Tribune, The Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer and others that have drifted into Clinton endorsements bear consideration.

These boards are made up of serious professionals who have studied, reported on and analyzed politics for many years. These decisions aren’t political payback for any real or perceived slight.

It’s sort of like serving jury duty; it’s a pain in the neck until a decision must be made, then it gets serious in a hurry.

It’s not taken lightly.

Do these endorsements have any impact?

That’s tough to figure.

Way back, when we had three television networks and we turned to the newspaper every morning to keep us up with the events of the world, yes.

Now?

That’s a tougher call.

Even though people are shifting from print to electronic news, deep inside they still respect the established media as credible. Even those who like to quote pieces from some of the off-the-wall special interest websites specializing in conspiracy theories, innuendo and flat-out lies that suit their point of view realize the truth when they see it, whether on newsprint or a computer screen.

Is it unusual?

Of course.

Is it odd?

Absolutely.

But this election year has certainly been unusual.

And very, very odd.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • .... October 4, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I’m sure True Crime magazine endorses Hillary

  • RealMcCoy October 4, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    I’m sure every news outlet will endorse Hillary. I mean, who wants to end up on the Clinton Kill List?
    Even the FBI director decided it was better to live than go against Hillary.
    If Clinton manages to get to Trump, even TRUMP would endorse Hillary. It beats ending up as a ‘suicide’ with 3 bullets in the back of the head.

  • Henry October 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Ed, I look forward to the weekly voyage into the Twilight Zone of your brain, “a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.” As usual, your imagination does not disappoint in how far-fetched is the premise of your weekly column.

    This week, you admonish readers to “Take the Clinton Endorsements Seriously”. Your first sentence lectures the reader of the criticality of “informed news outlets making informed recommendations for the presidency.” You revisit your thesis toward the end of the article: “Even though people are shifting from print to electronic news, deep inside they still respect the established media as credible.”

    Ed, sorry to deflate your inflated sense of importance of and trust in the press. An April 2016 U.S. News article discussed the results of a poll commissioned by the Associated Press and the American Press Institute. The title of the article is the primary takeaway: “Just 6 Percent of People say that they Trust the Media, putting the News Industry on about par with Congress and well below the Public’s View of other Institutions.”

    • Curtis October 6, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Ed is extolling the worth of the endorsements because they are pro-Clinton and anti-Trump. If it was the other way around he would be saying the 6 percent have it wrong.

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