Thursday, October 28, 2004

Faint praise

It's an open question how much newspaper endorsements matter, but in case they do, it isn't enough just to keep score. Some of the Bush endorsements are downright tortured. Like this one from the Denver Post, which should be read in full to be believed, but here's a small sample:

Our support for Bush is tempered by unease over the poor choices and results of his first term. To succeed in his second-term, Bush must begin by taking responsibility for U.S. failures in Iraq, admit his mistakes and adjust U.S. strategy. Big time, as his running mate might say.

It generated more than 700 responses, all of them critical, like this one:

The Post's endorsement of George W. Bush is one of the best condemnations of his administration that I've seen. It's a grand litany of failures, all of which you acknowledge. Rereading the article carefully, I found one positive word about Bush: "decisiveness."
Decisiveness? This man decided to invade Iraq, cut taxes, loosen environmental laws, suppress stem-cell research, etc., long before he became president, and never changed his mind nor admitted any mistake in face of manifest evidence, and never will. And in face of this stubbornness, you offer suggestions that he should do all things differently in his second term, expecting, I suppose, that he will, and therefore you endorse him.
Then there's the wobbly Salt Lake Tribune:

Tribune readers know that this newspaper has been consistently critical of a number of the president's policies, particularly his war in Iraq, his tax cuts for the rich and his abysmal environmental record.

A careful reader at the American Prospect notes that both papers are owned by Republican media mogul Dean Singleton, thus raising the interesting issue of the publisher's control over the editor's voice. How many editors in how many chains have had to hold their noses with one hand while pecking out this particular endorsement with the other? As the American Prospect blogger points out, at least one newspaper is straightforward about it.
At the National Newspaper Association Convention in Denver last month, where the future of journalism was much on our minds, I singled out Mr. Singleton for having a clue. Yet I soon realized that his version of media interactivity was pretty top-down. There's much food for thought here, and not all of it favors the triumphalist narrative.
UPDATE: The Cleveland Plain Dealer couldn't reach a deal.

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