Monday, October 20, 2008

One WCF Reader Questions the Ethics of Newspaper Candidate Endorsements

A brief examination of local print media endorsement philosophies and practices

Gentle reader Is This Right poses a couple of interesting questions this morning in a lower article comments section. Both questions deserve main page treatment, we think, so we'll take them one by one:
Sunday and today's Standard Examiner editions both contained "our view" on the upcoming vote. Where the "paper" endorses one candidate over another.
Isn't this ethically wrong? I don't think I've ever seen CNN endorse a Candidate. Isn't the media supposed to report the news and not try to influence their watcher/readers?
Regarding this first question, there was an excellent editorial on this very topic in the Salt Lake Tribune last week:

Why newspapers endorse political candidates

The Standard-Examiner also editorialized on the subject last year, with its announcement, prior to the 2007 municipal elections, that it was breaking a 35-year tradition, and adopting an ongoing policy of actively making candidate endorsements:

Recommendations are coming

Regarding the second question:
I also couldn't help but notice that both endorsements have been for the incumbent Republican in office.
It's true that the Std-Ex's two most recent endorsements favored GOP candidates:

Dearden for Weber commission
Huntsman for Utah governor

Nevertheless, we must not forget Saturday's endorsement, in which the Std-Ex recommended Democratic Party Attorney General candidate Jean Welch Hill:

Welch Hill for attorney general

These issues were bound to come up during the 2008 general election season, and we thank gentle reader Is This Right for raising these important questions well in advance the November 4 polling.

And for the record, Weber County Forum strongly concurs with each of the above Std-Ex endorsements.

Reader comments are invited as always.


Curmudgeon said...

Is This Right:

Newspapers have been endorsing candidates since there were newspapers in the US. In fact, in the 19th century, most newspapers in the US were founded to advance the cause of one particular party or candidate. And as long is the endorsing goes on on the editorial pages, there's nothing wrong with it. That's what editorials are for, after all... the expression of opinion, including the paper's opinion [or, occasionally, the publisher's opinion]. It becomes a problem only when editorial opinion slops over and begins to affect, and infect, the news pages. [Think, in the media world, Fox News.] But so long as the editorials stay on the editorial page, I see nothing wrong with newspaper endorsements.

bullet sponge said...

All TV news and Newspapers are run by people. People with political leanings. The whole idea that ANY of them are "unbiased and neutral and just reporting the facts" is utter BS. If you think one of them is, then more than likely its only because you happen to agree with the slant.

For instance you mention Fox News. CNN, MSNBC, and network news are easily as slanted (in my opinnion moreso) to the left as Fox is to the right. But that's from MY perspective. See how that works? Singling Fox out is ridiculous. You simply don't like the "slant" you enjoy with some of the other news sources.

I'd as soon they did not endorse anyone, but hopefully thinking people can make up their own minds and take the facts into account without being led by an "unbiased" source.

Viva la Internet. The more varied and numerous opinions the better.

pioneer said...

Interesting to note that the Standard's endorsement is what likely put Mayor Godfrey over the top (barely) last year. Why did the Standard all of sudden start doing this for that election?

Right? said...

I appreciate Curms response and agree with the line;
"And as long is the endorsing goes on on the editorial pages, there's nothing wrong with it". That seems fair.

I do worry about a business making a public comment labelled "our view". This makes me wonder who's view. Does the socialist intern working in the mail room agree with the stance of "our view".

Can a company really have a political stance and if so who gets to make this opinion offically a stance of the company?

From reading these "our view" editorials and I suppose to assume that every employee at The Standard want Mr Dearden to win or just the CEO?

I personally don't like the company I work for speaking for me!

Curmudgeon said...


The difference between Fox and CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and most newspapers is this: the latter make reasonable efforts to separate news and the reporting thereof, from commentary and political advocacy. MSNBC's Countown with Keith Olberman is as unabashedly, and proudly, left-leaning in its presentation as The OReilly Factor is unabashedly and proudly right leaning it its. The problem that separates Fox out from the others is that the political leanings of its commentary offerings often shape the presentation of its [supposedly] straight "news" programs as well. That happens much much less on any other major network. That's the difference.

OReilly and Olberman and Glen Beck and Rush Limpaw can pontificate and opine til the cows come home, and no complaint from me. But when I tune to a Fox News straight news show, and it still seems I'm listening to OReilly or Rush, then I have a problem.

More broadly, you reflect what's become a quite common assumption these days, and it is I think a false one. [It's become the party line in History too.] That substantially unbiased work is impossible, that all news [and history] writing is simply a cacophony of competing biases.

I'm fairly alone on this these days in my field, but I think that's nonsense. A reporter [or historian] who is a registered Republican, or Democrat, or neither, is perfectly capable of doing unbiased work and writing. Holding political [or historical] opinions does not mean the holder cannot possibly do unbiased work.

The assumption that is, as I said, quite common today in a variety of fields [journalism and history the two I'm most familiar with] is not only wrong, it is dangerous. It creates a tendency for people to reject anything as simply a biased [meaning unfair or inaccurate] reflection of the writer's pre-existing preferences. And it renders the kind of fact-grounded public discussion of public matters that is essential to make a democracy work not only difficult to carry out, but very nearly impossible. That's why it's dangerous.

The undergraduate campus version of that is students who think "but that's my opinion" is an effective counter to any criticism. They seem shocked when I say "yes, that is your opinion. And it's wrong." It is, for example, the opinion of some people that the world is flat. That's their opinion. They are entitled to it. But its wrong. And its being their opinion does not, should not... and in a free country, cannot... insulate them from criticism for holding that opinion, and expressing it. [Example: a student who writes on a geography exam that the earth is flat can expect to be graded off for it. "But that's my opinion" will not be a successful appeal. Nor should it be.]

There are facts. They can be reported --- and often are --- regardless of the political leanings --- or lack thereof --- of the reporters involved.

Jason W. said...

Our View is the consensus of the Gondola-Examiner's editorial board. Members of that board represent advertising, marketing, online, and other groups not associated with news gathering.

On another note, tomorrow's Ogden City Council agenda includes the appointment/non-appointment of a new Economic & Community Development Director; anyone heard what kind of shameless Lying Little Matty Gondola Godfreyite might be appointed? Beaver floated the notion of Jo Packham -- gasp!


curious 1 said...

Wasn't Jo Packham responable for almost killing off the Farmers Market? She also was the secret campaign manager for the mayor, and was responsable for observing the election at the polls with Godfreys name in plain view illegally trying to influence and intimidate the voters? She was one of the main reasons the ACLU got involved.
Between Jo and "G" Train I don't know how many more friends we can afford in city employment. And Jo's daughter already has a cusy city job over $50K a year along with Kami Geiger.
We need more city employees with ethics, and experience so mwe don't have more contracts signed by city employees that have their head you know where.

bullet sponge said...

Curmudgeon, to simply state that Fox is biased and the others are not is out and out denial and partisanship. Sorry, it doesn't fly. CNN and MSNBC are every bit as left leaning as Fox is right leaning if not more. I'm not blind enough to pretend Fox can't be biased, and if you think the networks you "like" aren't, then you are indeed blind.

You've gone to great lengths to set up a convenient straw man argument for you to knock down, but I never said people were utterly incapable of being fair, nor did I say anything about something being an opinion making it "okay". Nor did I state it was impossible to simply record the "facts". But that's not what news reporters do. They write a STORY BASED ON THE FACTS and often color it in the direction they want (Standard Examiner anyone?).

I said you need to understand all news is reported by people, and all news stations are owned by people, and thus there can and will be political slant. Not always, but its there. And you need to be able to gather as much information from as many sources as you can before deciding on anything.

As for opinions, comparing the "world is flat" to "CNN & MSNBC is biased" is also ridiculous. One is clearly contradicting a known and accepted fact, the other is an opinion every bit as valid as "Fox News is biased". You're seeing what you want to see, that being the news you WANT to hear is totally unbiased, and that which you don't is slanted. For every liberal that thinks Fox is slanted there is a conservative who think MSNBC or CNN is slanted.

All networks news outlets may indeed report the facts, but the stories they choose to cover, and the way in which they write the surrounding story containing the facts is where things go left or right. If you're accepting everything CNN and MSNBC says as unbiased fact you are asleep at the wheel. Just as much as if someone were accepting Fox News as unbiased.

beaver said...

Curious wrote:

"Wasn't Jo Packham responable for almost killing off the Farmers Market? She also was the secret campaign manager for the mayor, and was responsable for observing the election at the polls with Godfreys name in plain view illegally trying to influence and intimidate the voters? She was one of the main reasons the ACLU got involved."

Sounds like an ideal candidate in Mattyworld.

Besides, she's a genius. Just ask her.

googleboy said...

Jo Packham

Jo Packham - creative director "yes", economic director "no" said...

Jo Packham's businesses went bankrupt and she was forced to lay off her employees and sell her building when she used a three million dollar advance from her publishing company to finance the failed "Women Create," which lost everything that was sunk into it. There’s info about what the event was on the Website Googleboy provided a link to above. My friend worked for her and said she was supposed to publish 30 books with the money, but only ended up delivering on about three. I believe there was legal action. The Conference Center subsequently wrote off the debt for the venue so Weber County lost out too. All the employees got laid off around Christmas time after being reassured that their jobs were secure. My friend said she worked with someone who had asked if her job was secure enough to buy a house, was told "yes," and then let go within about a month.

Even if she’s working for free as restitution to pay back the rumored half million dollars she was given by the central business district (which later had be written off as well) to try to salvage things, she’s definitely not who I want to see with Ogden’s checkbook – or credit card – in these tough financial times. She might be great as a creative director or ideas person, but she wasn’t accountable with her own bottom line and I doubt she could be with the city’s either. She had great shops on 25th Street, but the two she ran with her daughter were business failures. Lots of companies and cities are now asking for a credit report from perspective employees – especially when they'll be making major financial decisions. It’s not reasonable in all scenarios, but in this case if she is the candidate it seems like how she’s handled her personal and business finances would be relevant.

I hope she invests in another business that’s successful for her in the future, I just don’t want her touching my tax dollars. My friend said she's got great taste and good ideas, her books were just always a disaster.

Jo Packham - creative director "yes", economic director "no" said...

When I referenced books above I meant financial, not the ones she published (my friend has a stack of her coffee table books and they're all very nice).

Mel Wilson said...

Yes to J. Del Holbrook

This year the citizens of Davis County will have the opportunity to elect a new Davis County Commissioner. Since this is a presidential election, little attention has been paid to local county races. However, as reflected in your recent tax assessment notices, the person elected to county commission office can significally impact your personal life.

As the former five term elected county attorney, I know of what I speak. I also know with the recent downturn in the economy and resulting reduction in sales revenues, construction and employment, that county tax revenues will be down, which makes it even more important that we elect a person who is not only responsive to the needs of Davis County citizens, but has the demonstrated ability to bring about change, a man who will strive for economies in government, cut out duplication of services and will seek essential fairness in taxation, property valuation and assesment processes.

Both candidates, John Petroff and J. Dell Holbrook, are good, honest, hard working men however; I would encourage your support of Mr. Holbrook for several reasons. First, he is independent and is not beholden to any special interest groups or party allegiances. Second, he is open to new ideas and willing to work for change. He is a problem solver and will be innovative and thrifty with county resources. Third, he has prior experience as a county commissioner. I know, having spent some thirty plus years in county government that any new county commissioner will require a couple of years just to get comfortable with the job. Mr. Holbrook already has more experience as a county commissioner than the two remaining commissioners combined. Fourth, Mr. Holbrook is a man of integrity and he will not make commitments to Davis County citizens which he cannot keep.

Davis County has, for the past fifty years, been dominated by a single party and, as a result our choice as voters has been limited. This year we have a viable choice and I would encourage voters to educate themselves on the two candidates for county commissioner and cast their vote for the candidate they feel will best serve this county.

Mel Wilson
Former Davis County Attorney

RudiZink said...

Even Boss godfrey isn't dumb enought to nominate Jo Packham to a top administration post.

Godfrey's nominee on Tuesday night will be the equally clueless Scott Waterfall.

The poor guy's floundering in his private law practice, with a firm which, even in the 21st Century, -- Google Search - Scott Waterfall -- doesn't have its own dedicated website.

Scott Waterfall will be just the kind of clueless, desperate and halfway broke lackey Godfrey needs, assuming the council is dumb enough to approve him.

watching it happen said...

If the newspaper endorses candidate, should they not be responsible for what they do when they are elected?

"We endorse both Democrats and Republicans, sometimes heartily, sometimes not. As readers know, we are far from infallible. We've made several endorsements we'd take back if we could."
After all they wish they could take back some if they could. Regret, regret.

Curmudgeon said...

Well, if the Administration doesn't nominate Ms. P., then all the piling on and venom posted here will have been gratuitous. Wasn't much point to it all if she is in fact not nominated, was there....

It's this kind of piling on, in advance of the fact, that convinces people that folks here at WCF simply enjoy bashing anyone linked in any way, even falsely, to the Mayor as in this case. Folks nominated for public posts certainly should expect to have their records examined and to be asked to stand on their records. But all this venom unleashed on a woman who may not be nominated at all seems uncalled for and over the top to me. Let's see who he nominates for the post, then look at his or her record and qualifications, and go from there.

And we'll have to actually look at his or her record and qualifications. Screeching endlessly that "Godfrey nominated him, so he can't be worth a damn" won't do. Not now. Not ever.

Curm the worm said...

But Curm, if it weren't for this activity you wouldn't need your soapbox and you wouldn't be able to lecture every one on how wrong they are about things and most of all it would be much more difficult for you to constantly demonstrate your brilliance. Jeeze, talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

curious 1 said...

Sorry Curm but when by the time we all find out who the secret nomination will be the council is forced to act immediately. Pro-active both in support and against might be the best informed way to go.

Another home burned last night BTW.

Curmudgeon said...

Curm the Worm:

You wrote: you... constantly demonstrate your brilliance.

Why, CTW, thank you so much. I'm flattered that you think my posts brilliant. It's not true, of course, not even close, but I am ever so pleased that you think it is. Made my day! I've never had a fan club before!

Curmudgeon said...


You wrote: Sorry Curm but when by the time we all find out who the secret nomination will be the council is forced to act immediately.

The Council can not be forced to act immediately. It can always say no. I grant you that way too often in the past, it has permitted itself to be stampeded by the Mayor who claims it must act immediately, but it seems to be getting better about that, and refusing to be rushed into action lately.

And I don't think this position needs Council approval at all, does it? It's purely within the Mayor's office and is being funded out of his discretionary funds, I think.

beaver said...

Curm wrote:

"Let's see who he nominates for the post, then look at his or her record and qualifications, and go from there."

I agree. Let's wait and see who he nominates and then pile on, spew venom, and bash the sh*t out of the candidate for being linked to the mayor.

Still Hiding said...

Another thought on a "company" making an endorsement of a canidate. If the CEO or Editors in charge get to decide who the company endorses than shouldn't these individuals just post the commentary under their own names and quite hidding behind the company.

It is a lot like the fact I'm not posting under my real name. Could I really handle being judged by my peers.

Perhaps it is time that people stopped hiding and put their name/face where their beliefs are?

RudiZink said...

Two reader comments moved to new thread

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