Monday, October 31, 2005

 

Papers weakening their own influence

We got an interesting email from a reader commenting on the Plain Dealer's and Dispatch's rejection of the Reform Ohio Now amendments and we think he makes a valid point, namely that in a big way, the non-endorsements are a triumph of political considerations over the best interest of the newspapers.

Let us explain. We're no great journalism historians, but we do know this: There once was a time when a newspaper's endorsement of a candidate meant a lot. Sometimes it was just pompous "King Maker" boasting, but papers like the Dispatch and Plain Dealer 20, maybe even 15 years ago could make or break a legislative candidate simply with an editorial of support. Today, the only place that seems to still be true is the school board races and city council/county council positions. For Congressional seats and elections for the Ohio General Assembly, they only pretend to have influence.

Why? Because of the same reasons Issue 4 is needed, namely that competition has disappeared from state and national legislative races and only really exists in non-district elections such as the school boards, etc. Without competition, the paper's endorsements are practically valueless because the encumbent really doesn't need it. She or he might lose a few points, but they will likely still win by a landslide.

The editors of the Dispatch and PD must have realized the power of their editorials was starting to slip years ago. Yet the blind political allegiance of their owners to their Republican bretheran causes them to lose a key opportunity to return major power to their papers' editorial staff.

Stupid.

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