Newspapers have been making political endorsements for over a century and have arguably influenced the results of many presidential elections. Media recommendations are meant to help readers choose the best candidate. But in this time of polarization, they could further heighten the public’s growing mistrust of the media.
Since the Chicago Sun-Times recently merged with WBEZ, claiming nonprofit status, the publication will no longer endorse political candidates. This change was made because the Internal recipe code (IRS) prohibits nonprofit organizations from participating in political campaigns. Although no longer making mentions, the Sun-Times Editorial Committee said they are still committed to finding ways to help their readers make an informed decision when voting in the upcoming election.
other big editions such as the Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Dayton Daily News, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel do not endorse political candidates.
A problem with mentions is that many readers are not always aware that there is a clear difference between a newspaper’s editorial board and the news division.
“I think as journalists we have failed to consistently educate the public about the difference between information and opinion,” said Carol Marin, director of the Center for Integrity and Excellence in Journalism from DePaul University.
If newspapers make endorsements, they should inform the public of this distinction. Although the endorsements are based on the investigative work of journalists, they are not representative of the beliefs of all staff, only those of a few members of the editorial board.
Because society has become politically polarized in recent years, the public has become increasingly more suspicious of the media. This is mainly because people’s trust in the media depends on the type of media they consume.
“In a world where opinions on Twitter, opinions on Facebook, and cable channels like Fox and MSNBC don’t really make news, but they just make opinions and commentary, I think we’re confusing the public about what’s going on. he’s a journalist,” Marin said. mentioned.
When national and respected news stations choose to engage in political commentary instead of real reporting, people naturally lose faith in the media. With recommendations, it is imperative that you clearly enforce the separation of news and opinion so that readers do not feel that what is covered is influenced by the editorial board.
” If you are going to [make endorsements]you really have to make an effort to explain that the news side of the organization is not influenced by the editorial board in terms of coverage,” Marin said.
Scott Hibbard, chair of DePaul’s political science department, says partisanship in the media is becoming increasingly problematic.
“I don’t see editorial boards endorsing candidates as a bad thing, I think it’s actually a public service,” Hibbard said. “What worries me most is how partisanship has crept in and is currently affecting reporting.”
I’ve wrestled with the question of whether newspapers should steer clear of political mentions over the past week, but determined there’s no right answer.
As journalists, it is our duty to inform, investigate and report the facts to the public, without bias or personal opinion. But if partisanship in the media only serves to increase public distrust of the news, then political endorsements can only serve as catalysts for more distrust.
Previously, political endorsements were considered a public service and extremely useful for small legislative elections which are just as important as presidential elections. Now, there is the possibility that they serve to alienate half of a publication’s readership by endorsing a candidate and therefore, a specific political party.
People are less likely to use a newspaper recommendation when choosing a candidate than in the past due to the accessibility of the internet and people’s tendency to favor one candidate over another only depending on the political party they are affiliated with, according to DePaul political science professor Wayne Steger.
“The biggest constraint on media influence is simply people’s predisposition,” Steger said.
Despite these concerns, it is imperative that we as journalists address the growing distrust of the media due to the spread of disinformation and the misinterpretation of political commentary versus real news. After talking to several experts on this issue, I realized that more and more people have a negative perception of the media and have an increasingly popular belief that real news is surrounded by personal opinions.
“We live in a very fragmented media environment these days,” Hibbard said. “It’s problematic for a functioning democracy. Part of the discourse in American society is undermined by the fact that people adhere to different empirical realities and hold different sets of facts to be true.
Whether political endorsements serve to help or hurt newspaper reputations, readership or revenue, if more publications choose to eliminate endorsements, it could help restore public trust in the media once again.