The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the largest newspaper in the swing state of Wisconsin, published a column today explaining why the paper has decided to stop making political endorsements in most races – including the upcoming presidential and U.S. Senate elections. The paper previously endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 and Governor Scott Walker in this year’s heated gubernatorial recall. Read the column post your thoughts.
Why we won’t make endorsements
By David Haynes, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Page Editor
When I was appointed editorial page editor nearly two years ago, I pledged that our pages would be “fiercely independent” and that we would “offer a marketplace of ideas.”
That’s what we have tried to do. And that’s why we have decided that the Editorial Board should get out of the political endorsement business. We will analyze key races this fall, but we will not make recommendations.
The reason for this change goes to the heart of our mission: to provide a forum in print and online for thoughtful, provocative commentary.
Our editorials are but one of the voices in that ongoing discussion, a discussion that increasingly is occurring at our website, on mobile devices and over social media. Jay Rosen, an expert in new media and a press critic at New York University, had this to say in an email to me in response to our decision:
“I think newspaper endorsements as they stood were an outdated form for 57 reasons. I don’t regret their demise. The ex-cathedra voice in which they were written: Is that really your voice any longer? But . . . It’s more impressive to me when the decision to drop endorsements is coupled with a dynamic plan to become 1) more usefully interactive with readers . . . and 2) not less but more willing to make calls on things (other than elections) that stand a better chance of being useful and influential.”
Rosen is spot on. We plan to engage more thoughtfully with readers on all of our platforms.
But this idea of independence also is a critical piece of our thinking on this matter.
Each day, the Editorial Board evaluates issues and looks for ideas that we think will work. Our positions have long been infused with thought from across the political spectrum. We support school choice, for example – a position that leans conservative. We’re backers of a flatter tax code – another position that leans in that direction. But we also believe that voter ID looks too much like voter suppression, and we support an immigration policy that would give undocumented people already living and working in the United States a pathway to citizenship – two positions that lean left.
No party or ideology has a monopoly on good ideas – or bad ones. Our job is to sift through this soil and find kernels of reasonableness. Our tools include those editorials but also op-eds, columns, letters to the editor and social media.
It makes little sense to put our independence at risk during the election season. Though some of our peers across the country will disagree, the Editorial Board has decided that endorsements do put it at risk.
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