Election years present newspapers with a key opportunity to serve as valuable resources for voters. We do this not only through quality political reporting, but also through endorsements in the days leading up to the election.
Unlike the un-biased, objective news coverage produced by newspapers, endorsements come from the publications’ editorial boards — the staff responsible for shaping the opinions of a newspaper through its editorials. Endorsements allow the newspapers to offer its voting suggestions to readers who want them.
We realize not everyone has the time, energy or even desire to stay as in tune with politics or the news as we do. Many people look to the newspaper for Election Day answers, as well as direction. In the past, when The Herald opted not to provide editorial endorsements — as is the standing practice at such newspapers as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Chicago Sun-Times — local readers reacted negatively and demanded endorsements’ return.
For those who don’t want or need their newspaper’s opinion on candidate selections, they’re free to disregard the suggestions. It’s as simple as that.
Some readers apparently were surprised during the past week when The Herald, as well as the Lawrence Journal-World and Manhattan Mercury — all newspapers with opinion pages some say typically lean left — endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for president over Democrat Barack Obama. (The Herald and Mercury both endorsed Obama in 2008, while the Journal-World endorsed Republican John McCain.)
Just like voters, newspapers’ editorial boards’ opinions about leaders and leadership also change through time. Observations, research and experience — not just rhetoric from the campaign trail — help form the views behind endorsements.
Interestingly, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune noted Monday, 12 of the major newspaper endorsements for Romney came from publications that endorsed Obama in 2008. And one of those newspapers, the Des Moines Register, had not endorsed a Republican in 40 years.
What does it all mean?
With newspapers so divided, the presidential race likely will be a close one — perhaps with no clear victory at the end of Election Night.
But editorial boards across the country don’t get to pick the winner.
Our final endorsement of 2012: Go vote.
— Tommy Felts,