|Photo credit: Berkeley Graduate Division|
It seems that newspapers have become increasingly anxious about backing candidates. In an age when newspapers are hemorrhaging advertising dollars and when competition for readers and circulation is at an all time high, there has been a concerted effort by dailies to try and remain as independent and neutral as possible when it comes to elections. Despite this fact, you would be hard pressed to find an editorial section in any major newspaper that doesn’t feature an opinion on a politician or politics. But really, is this trend towards neutrality consistent with the “watchdog’ or protector role that we have always sought and expected from our press? If we can’t trust our newspapers to help us decide on who to vote for, how can we trust them to keep who we vote for honest?
The mid-term election at hand is of note because it comes at a time when many Americans are unsure how to feel about politics. According to a recent poll conducted by Politico, a majority of respondents expressed feelings of uneasiness and doubt regarding the current state of affairs in the land of the free. These fears include looming threats of terrorism and the spread of Ebola, with the fear ladder having been recently exacerbated by the shortcomings of both WHO and the CDC. The ISIS crisis and second round of Obamacare enrollment has also been a source of anxiety for American voters. With so much alarm in the air it would seem that this election would be an opportune time for our press to come to our aid by helping us come to clear decisions about who deserves our vote. With voter turnout in midterm elections lower than presidential elections ever since the 1840s, perhaps political endorsements could be a cause for activism and maybe even inspiration instead of apathy. By endorsing candidates and informing us about them, I believe that newspapers and other media entities can help engage us during election season, especially minorities and young people who traditionally are more likely not to participate in elections.
This year’s midterm election will decide 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 33 in the Senate, and 34 in gubernatorial offices. With the advent of negative campaign ads, political scandals, corruption, and special interests, voting in the US has become like navigating a minefield. As such it would be nice if we could count on the press and, more specifically, our newspapers to help us out come election time. November 4th, 2014 will be a very interesting day in the United States. One thing for sure is that it is always a more compelling day when newspapers make our voting decisions more interesting by endorsing the people who want our vote.
- William Korte
Columbia Journalism Review
Pew Research Center