One of the first things you learn in a journalism class is to be unbiased.
In fact, that’s kind of the whole point. Journalism’s purpose is to give citizens the information they need in their communities, lives and jobs. Journalists are to remain objective, providing facts, issues and events in an unbiased and neutral manner. In turn, this leaves readers to create their own opinions on the matter.
Recently, the New York Times editorial board endorsed Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Regardless of how you feel about Klobuchar or Warren, newspapers shouldn’t be endorsing political candidates.
First, readers are already skeptical of newspapers separating opinion from fact. A 2016 HuffPost survey said that 51% of Americans say that newspapers should not endorse political candidates, and only 24% believe that they should. Trust in the media has fallen over the past couple of years.
Additionally, readers don’t care who newspapers endorse. In a 2017 Virginia gubernatorial race for governor, candidate Ralph Northam easily beat out Ed Gillespie despite newspapers in Roanoke, Richmond, Fredericksburg, Winchester, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg and Halifax endorsing Gillespie. Truth is, readers don’t care who newspapers support.
And they shouldn’t. Journalists should be giving us the facts, so that readers can create and formulate their own opinions and decisions. No one should try to “sway,” or influence, a vote.
Not only are newspapers endorsing these candidates, but they’re against the outcome. In 2016, many newspapers endorsed candidate Hillary Clinton over current president Donald Trump. Only one major newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, endorsed Trump. So, why bother?
Not everyone endorses political candidates, either. Web outlets Slate and BuzzFeed have never endorsed a candidate. But, newspapers endorsing candidates has been a practice that has been around forever. In 1860, the NYT announced their support for candidate Abe Lincoln.
Journalists are adamant that the editorial board is separate from the newsroom. But, in today’s societal climate, people are having a hard time believing if that is true. The media has a credibility problem, and endorsing candidates for political power isn’t making it any better.
Newspapers should be providing and engaging a forum for dialogue in the community to talk about issues at hand. Not shifting them.