Please join us at

Get the posts on my new blog by e-mail. Enter your e-mail address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

New posts on

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Reader-submitted: Check this out. This is but one example of how the corporate owners of the media are influencing what used to be independent newsrooms and editorial staffs. The networks are even worse.

Interesting. Very interesting. I wasn't aware that it was even possible for a newspaper to endorse two opposing candidates.

Not all newspapers endorse candidates: some believe that it compromises their reporters. I understand this perspective, and in organizations that don't have a really good "wall" between news and editorial, this might be the best move. I haven't written much about the economics of newspaper publishing, but the Cole's Notes version would be that some newspapers simply don't have the resources to separate their news sections from their editorial sections. (Yes, news and editorial should be separate!)

This is not the same as publishing opposing views in the op-ed section. Newspapers should publish a wide range of opinions, and they should have columnists of all political backgrounds. A really good newspaper will have an ombudsman and allow its staff to publicly criticise its editorial decisions. They are certainly not required to do this, but that's part of having a free press. Journalism is a public service.

Endorsements are different. An endorsement, like any editorial, is supposed to be the official position of the newspaper's editorial board (not its news division). I'm not sure how a paper could endorse opposing candidates and expect readers not to be confused. Dissenting editorials are a contradiction in terms.

The Times has a confidential source who claims that the dissenting editorial was the result of pressure from the publisher.

I know that many of my readers don't hold journalism as near to their hearts as I do, and probably don't see the problem here. Yes, freedom of the press is limited to those who own them. But the normal practice is for publishers to remove themselves from news and editorial decisions. The newsroom needs to be independent.

In most newspapers, the editor and publisher are different people. This is important. The editor ensures journalistic integrity, while the publisher takes care of the business end. It's a bad idea for the editor to get involved with advertising, and it's an even worse idea for the publisher to make editorial decisions. Journalism that is motivated by business interests is not public service at all.

A better way to handle this would have been to have one formal endorsement with a number of well-written columns endorsing the other candidate. Ideally, the paper would have these, anyway, so it's not like this should be a stretch.

Thanks for sending this link.