A Newspaper’s Job Isn’t To Tell People How To Vote
The media giant that publishes USA Today, the Des Moines Register, the Detroit Free Press, and about 250 other newspapers has some advice for them: Stop making endorsements.
Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, wants its publications to break with the practice of endorsing candidates in presidential and congressional elections. According to The Washington Post, a committee of editors convened by Gannett made the recommendation in April, updating a 2018 planning document that urged papers to “endorse less, if at all,” and said it was “time to get out of presidential endorsements.”
In the buzz that followed Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama’s presidential run in 2007, the Pew Research Center asked voters about the impact of potential endorsements by various celebrities and institutions. Pew found that only 14 percent of voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate endorsed by their local newspaper
— while another 14 percent said they would be less likely to support that candidate. The overwhelming majority, 69 percent, said the paper’s endorsement would have no influence on their vote at all.
Americans’ confidence in the fairness and accuracy of news organizations is at or near an all-time low. A large majority of the public believes that the media are politically biased. What sense does it make for newspapers to reinforce those beliefs by proclaiming a loyalty to one side in a political campaign? Inevitably, many readers will assume that if a newspaper endorses a candidate during an election campaign, it will tilt its news coverage to favor that candidate.
Struggling Communities Hardest Hit by Decline in Local Journalism
The United States continues to lose newspapers at a rate of two a week, further dividing the nation into wealthier, faster growing communities with access to local news, and struggling areas without, according to a report on the state of local news from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.
Between the pre-pandemic months of late 2019 and the end of May 2022, more than 360 newspapers closed, the report by Medill’s Local News Initiative found. Since 2005, the country has lost more than one-fourth of its newspapers and is on track to lose a third by 2025.
Most of the communities that have lost newspapers do not get a print or digital replacement, leaving 70 million residents – or a fifth of the country’s population – either living in an area with no local news organizations, or one at risk, with only one local news outlet and very limited access to critical news and information that can inform their everyday decisions and sustain grassroots democracy. About 7 percent of the nation’s counties, or 211, now have no local newspaper.
“This is a crisis for our democracy and our society, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, visiting professor at Medill and the principal author of the report. “Invariably, the economically struggling, traditionally underserved communities that need local journalism the most are the very places where it is most difficult to sustain print or digital news organizations.”
Wired union members threaten to strike
The union representing roughly 65 editorial workers at tech magazine Wired is threatening to strike for two days if it can’t reach a contract agreement with Condé Nast management by July 12, reports Sara Fischer of Axios.
Fischer reports, “The workers are threatening a work stoppage on July 12 and 13, which are Amazon Prime Days. Those days typically drive a high volume of online shopping.
While the team prepares ample content leading up to the Prime Days holiday, a work stoppage means they wouldn’t update the site’s content, which could limit click-throughs by purchasers that provide the publication with referral revenue. The workers are asking public supporters to sign a ‘No contract, no clicks’ pledge.
Matt Jancer, a staff writer who reviews outdoor gear, said via a union statement: ‘Condé Nast tells us our work is important, but we’re willing to withhold our labor to ensure we receive a fair deal that reflects the significance of our efforts as we work 24 hours around the clock every Prime Day,’ he said.”
Paxton Purchases O’Bannon Family Newspapers
Two well-established southern Indiana newspapers owned by O’Bannon Publishing Co. Inc. have been sold to Paxton Media Group. The sale was official Thursday. Sold was The Corydon Democrat and Clarion News along with the company’s print shop, Corydon Instant Print.
The O’Bannon family told employees of the sale Wednesday morning prior to a management team from Paxton arriving to introduce themselves to the staff. Based in Paducah, Paxton also owns The News-Enterprise. Judy O’Bannon, chairman of the board and widow of Frank L. O’Bannon, told employees they should be proud of the work they’ve done that led to a company wanting to buy the newspapers and print shop.
The family cited the need for more, new and expanding resources to keep up with growing opportunities of a developing community as a reason why they decided to sell. “You all have done a wonderful job of keeping the readers informed of what goes on in the community,” O’Bannon said. “Hopefully, the new owners, with their resources, will help you to continue that.”