There was a time when newspaper endorsements were a big, big deal. As the loudest media presence in a city, (if not an entire region in many cases) the paper’s influence would have a massive effect on a voting base that got its political news from that very same source. Of course editorial influences made things messy from time to time, (read: all the time) but that was all part of the game.
Now in the age of 24/7 news channels and social media, newspapers have fallen a bit behind. Their endorsements are just one of many tossed into the cacophony of election noise. Only twenty of the top 100 newspapers in the country by paid circulation have made endorsements thus far. Many major papers, including Atlanta’s own Atlanta Journal Constitution, have officially stopped making endorsements entirely.
A day before the election in 2016, only two newspapers in the whole state of Georgia, and small ones at that, had even bothered to make public endorsements. The Valdosta Daily Times and Dalton’s Daily Citizen, (combined circulation of less than 30,000) are the only two papers to make endorsements in 2016, both in favor of Hillary Clinton.
That part, at least, is no surprise. Hillary Clinton has dominated the newspaper-endorsement ‘competition’, not shocking due to the generally left-leanings of most news organizations. What is a surprise though, is the unprecedented fact that the Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump, has received no endorsements from daily papers nationwide.
Even predominantly Republican papers who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, such as the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Birmingham News, and the Columbus Dispatch, (which hadn’t endorsed a Democrat since 1916!) switched to Hillary in 2016. The USA Today, which has the third largest circulation of any American daily paper, for the first time in its history took a political position, urging its readers not to vote for Trump.
Trump, for his part, doesn’t care. He’s made railing against the media, (while simultaneously manipulating it masterfully) one of the core tenets of his campaign. But as many elected Republican officials begin to back off the candidate following last week’s leak of sexist comments made in 2005, don’t expect many newspapers to come to his aid in the home stretch of the campaign.
Newspaper endorsements is an important topic to discuss but we should also talk about the importance of media plurality for democracy can not be emphasized enough. The media exerts great power because it may affect public opinion and so provide a channel for underperforming politicians to want to stay in power. When the media become puppets of people or governments, democracy ceases to exist. This is because misinformed people make the enthronement of a dictator much simpler, and at this point, Georgia’s democratic values, rights, and liberties should be maintained rather than discarded.