Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 3, 2010 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5771

Papers should leave endorsing to others

By Michael Smerconish



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's time for newspaper endorsements to go the way of soapboxes, whistle-stop tours, and emery boards bearing a candidate's name. By pursuing a partisan, presumptuous path on the editorial page, newspapers encourage questions about their objectivity elsewhere and put themselves on a level with other mediums that have cheapened the civic debate.

While technological advances have done wonders for our connectivity, ability to withdraw cash, and access to directions, they have also spawned a plethora of media outlets and opinion-makers all shouting for attention and professing to know what's in voters' best interest.

Take your pick. Cable TV, talk radio, the blogosphere, Facebook, and Twitter are a partisan cacophony. Here, all candidates and issues get defined according to simplistic, easily divisible ideological and partisan grounds. In this faux debate, every controversy gets reduced to the equivalent of a Republican-Democrat, left-right, blue state-red state split screen.

Unrepresented are those voices offering opinions incapable of being so strictly defined. That's because like certain of our political parties, these forums demand purity of thought. There's no nuance allowed, and any expression of subtlety is dismissed as wishy-washy weakness.

This is no environment for newspapers to cloud their true role by joining the ranks of pundits, particularly when fewer readers are relying on their election recommendations. A Pew survey released in January 2004 found that over the previous four years, a nod of approval from an editorial board had become less influential in voters' eyes (and, in fact, actually came to "dissuade as many Americans as they persuade," according to Pew).

Meanwhile, a study conducted in January and February of 2008 by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center found that endorsements had a relatively minimal effect on voters' decisions. During the presidential primaries that year, for example, nearly equal proportions of respondents said the New York Times' endorsement of John McCain increased the likelihood that they'd vote for him (7 percent) as said they'd be less likely to do so (6 percent). "A large majority (83 percent)," the study's authors noted, "reported that knowing of the endorsement made no difference in their level of support."

The credibility of the news pages is directly dependent on the perception of their objectivity. That's different from the everyday extremes of talk radio, cable TV, or the blogosphere. There, ratings and pageviews are driven by ideology and passion. Newspapers, on the other hand, are dependent upon authenticity.

Fairly or not, however, the presence of political endorsements erodes that perception of objectivity. The average voter probably doesn't distinguish between the considerations of the editorial board — whose job it is to debate issues of public significance and offer an opinion on them — and the reportage on the front page.

Maybe with good reason. According to a study released in June of 2002 by two political science professors at Arizona State University, incumbent U.S. senators who received the endorsement of their state's most circulated newspaper could expect press coverage (and headlines) with a more favorable tone, featuring more positive treatment of their policy views and fewer attributed criticisms within that coverage. Moreover, the authors found that incumbent senators enjoyed an increase in positive coverage after the endorsement in their favor had been published.

"I think newspapers need to know how endorsement decisions may inadvertently influence coverage of candidates on the news pages," Kim Fridkin Kahn, one of the authors of the Arizona State study, told me in an e-mail message. "If editors and reporters are aware of this, perhaps the relationship between endorsement decisions and coverage patterns would diminish."

Or perhaps newspaper editorial boards will abandon the practice of offering endorsements altogether.

When any newspaper lines up alongside Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann, they unnecessarily compromise their status as objective sources of fact at a time when an increasing number of media outlets traffic in ideologically driven, artificial political debates. The vaunted wall separating news coverage and editorializing is sacrificed — apparently based on the assumption that readers are capable of consuming the paper's reportage from the campaign trail, but unable to come to their own conclusions as a result of that information.

I say that voters who want to be told in writing what to do should fire up their inkjet and print out the Huffington Post or Drudge Report. Or immerse themselves in talk radio or cable TV. Newspapers, on the other hand, have the chance to swap decision-making for detachment. In so doing, they'd claim the high ground in today's relentlessly divided media environment.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.


Previously:


10/21/10 Media help to hype perception of bullying
09/23/10 Officer down, killer hyped up
08/04/10 Documents highlight Pakistan's shortcomings as a U.S. ally
07/06/10 On taking back Sept. 11
06/29/10 Name elite corps to develop energy independence?
04/21/10 New account reinforces a serviceman's valor
03/11/10 Medical profession must police itself better
02/18/10 One-trick athletes
02/09/10 Active, retired law officers should be able to carry guns on planes to help stop terrorists
02/04/10 How to bring tech up to speed
01/28/10 Campaign donations must be fully and immediately disclosed online
01/07/10 The flying emperor still has no clothes, and no one is willing to say so
12/24/09 A law to mandate college football playoffs?
12/17/09 Cheney's abuse of freedom of speech
11/26/09 The true cost of freedom from anxiety
10/27/09 If GOP wants to win in 2012, it must reshape its primary process
10/08/09 It's time to get smarter on extended school day
09/03/09 What a summer of eulogizing flawed public figures reveals about society
08/12/09 It's time for cyclists and motorists to reconcile
08/05/09 Faces have changed, but vitriol remains
06/25/09 Fair comment or foul? Warm up the Muzzle Meter
06/08/09 Believability is key in crime-hoax villains
05/14/09 Did Hollywood inspire the meltdown men?
04/20/09 Let's give killers their due: Anonymity
03/12/09 Uninsured who can't afford medical care lose a lot more
02/06/09 My debate with Musharraf on hunt for bin Laden
01/29/09 Torture must remain an option
01/15/09 Making a case for suing Madoff
12/22/08 A difficult but rational chat about ‘plans’
12/17/08 Facebook epidemic: More than 120 million have joined, many too old for this nonsense
12/01/08 The high price of downsizing the news biz
11/14/08 Prescience on greed, arrogance of a system
09/29/08 Closer look at party lines
08/26/08 Obama's pick creates GOP opportunity
08/21/08 Fishing with the Angry Everyman
07/31/08 The perils of e-mail: Ponder, then click
05/22/08 Two very different sides of the Internet
02/12/08 Sublimely ridiculous suits
11/28/08 Cell phones cut out secondary circle of kinship
09/26/07 What do we owe those who have died in Iraq?
08/30/07 A Navy SEAL's gut-wrenching tale of survival
07/30/07 First it was a faux pas, now it's a new word


© 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles