Talk with the Editor: Should newspapers make endorsements?

 
 
Updated 1/25/2012 1:09 PM

On Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial announcing that it would no longer make political endorsements, largely on the grounds that the practice compromises the newspaper's sense of objectivity.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune published an editorial saying that while it respects the Sun-Times' decision, it will continue making endorsements, largely on the grounds that failing to do so would be an abdication of its responsibilities as a public citizen.

 

We will be publishing our editorial on the topic on Sunday, and it is not my intention here to drop hints regarding what that is apt to say.

But permit me a couple of fleeting thoughts regarding the editorials of our metropolitan colleagues.

While I don't see conspiracies here, it seems odd that the Sun-Times chose to make this groundbreaking announcement during the Monday morning commuter rush. I may be old-fashioned (OK, I am old-fashioned), but I would have thought you'd announce something of that magnitude in the Sunday editions, which we in the business view as sacred.

Not a big deal really. Just struck me as a little odd. But it probably isn't. Weekdays are much better if you want to generate online traffic, which falls dramatically on weekends. And weekdays are much better if you want to create a buzz in the broadcast and digital media. Which the Sun-Times announcement got. So again, no huge deal. Just interesting.

Meanwhile, it's hard not to be amused by this: The Tribune's caveat that "we respect the decision by the Sun-Times" seems a little like a politician who says he has nothing but the highest regard for his rival and then proceeds to ask why the opponent is a shill for special interests. How can you say you respect the decision on one hand and then on the other say it would be an abdication of your obligations to do likewise? Seems a bit of a contradiction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Whatever the case, those are minor sidelights, not focal points, of what is a compelling journalistic debate. I posted a question on Facebook asking about the issue and was amazed by the volume of response -- and the diversity of viewpoints.

One commenter, a journalist who agreed with the Sun-Times, said, "No matter how much you try separating opinion from reporting, political endorsements will have readers wondering whether you're being objective covering elections."

Another commenter, a politician who disagreed, said, "The endorsement process is good for candidates, editors and the public because it demands clear answers, in writing, to key issues, which then get published. Candidates might not take as much time and care if there is no endorsement available. I have had some disagreements with the DH endorsements, but you guys should keep doing what you're doing."

There were many more comments and considerable nuance in the perspectives. What's your position? I'm interested in your views.

(We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility ... Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen)

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