Saturday, November 01, 2008

Should They Speak Out?

Despite occasional disagreement about the practice among journalists, some 400 daily newspapers across the land endorse presidential candidates in their editorial columns. In 2004, they were nearly equally divided between recommending John Kerry or George W. Bush. Interesting--that’s about how the election turned out.

Should the print media presume to tell us who they think can best guide our County? And when they do, should you and I pay attention to what they say? Yes and yes.

My experience is that newspaper editors come to know a lot about politicians because they constantly are exposed to their messages, and also monitor their actions. The newspaper people are skeptical by nature. With few exceptions, the editorials that appear in daily papers are developed by an editorial board. Debates can be sharp, because some effort usually is made to appoint board members with divergent viewpoints. What emerge are better analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates than individuals can possibly make by themselves.

My local paper doesn’t endorse presidential aspirants, but a few years back it decided to make recommendations about local candidates and referenda. I find this very useful in helping me make up my mind about how to vote on things that matter in my life. I wish the Ogden paper’s editorial board would say who it favors for president. That alone wouldn’t sway my vote, but I’d like to see the argument.

Endorsements by newspapers are useful because they always are accompanied by the reasons for the recommendation. Editorial boards tend to address the issues, not the “attack dog” junk. Calling Senator Obama an “inexperienced socialist” or Senator McCain an “over-aged warmonger” is stupid and useless. With very few exceptions, the editorial boards don’t engage in the reprehensible character assassination that has been far too prevalent in the current campaign.

Should we slavishly follow the advice of the press? No. We should make up our own minds, but the arguments that accompany newspaper recommendations should be considered. They offer some of the best information available.

Of course, like anything else, endorsements can be reduced to absurdity. Next week cartoonists Garry Trudeau (a liberal) and Carl Moore (a conservative) are going to endorse someone for president in their daily doodlings. I intend to pay no attention whatever to this kind of nonsense, and hope you also will ignore these shenanigans.

Should geezers who write blog posts endorse candidates? No. They have no special knowledge that would be helpful.

No comments: