The 2016 newspaper endorsements for president in 2016 represent a fascinating episode in our search for facts, a better understanding of bias and the role of the media . It also sheds light on how to wrestle with “balanced” reporting vs. “accurate” reporting. Prior to the 2016 election, the media and the public had been adhering to a “both sides” approach based on the unspoken assumption that both sides should have equal air time in order to appear unbiased and “fair”. While this approach seems fair, it led to a major misrepresentation of many facts. There was also a tolerance for lies, insults and misleading information exacerbated by the constant repetition of misleading information. This media approach compromised accuracy of reporting in favor of “fairness”.
So how do we put the newspaper editorials in context? Even given a “both sides” media approach, an overall shift to the right and concentration of ownership of local newspapers — the newspaper editorials in 2016 were overwhelmingly in favor of the Democratic candidate, 500 endorsements vs. 30 endorsements for the Republican candidate and 122 either no endorsement or for other. Why did we see such overwhelming endorsement for the Democratic candidate?
An intriguing idea is that newspapers were more focused on accuracy rather than “both-sidedness” when the time came to issue an opinion or endorsement. Editorials were not necessarily enthusiastically supporting the Democratic candidate. They were very clear about their opinion of the danger and unfitness presented by the Republican candidate. These opinions were courageous in many communities, especially rural and conservative ones. The courage is even more striking because it is widely known that newspaper endorsements are not persuasive with voters and are usually ignored. Many of these newspapers risked their perceived credibility, their subscriptions and their reputation in their communities when they voiced their opinions.
In the aftermath, we know that the a large segment of voters ignored the newspaper editorial opinions and voted for the Republican candidate. This outcome does not make these editorials “wrong”. It does raise the possibility that the newspapers were basing their opinions on facts and accuracy at the end of the day. When it came to voicing opinion, they did not succumb to “both-sidedness”.
Newspaper endorsements in the United States presidential election, 2016
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Various notable newspapers made endorsements of candidates in the 2016 United States presidential election, as follows. Tables below indicate which candidate each publication endorsed in the United States presidential election, 2012 (where known) and include only endorsements for the general election. Primary endorsements are separately listed at newspaper endorsements in the United States presidential primaries, 2016.
Media journalist Jim Rutenberg writes that endorsements in the 2016 presidential election are distinguished by “blunt condemnation” of the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and by a “save the Republic” tone. Reasons cited by editorial boards for refusing to endorse Trump included his lack of experience in government at any level, as well as, among other reasons, editors’ belief that Trump was profoundly ignorant of most areas of public policy, lacked character traits considered desirable in a US president, and took a cavalier attitude towards civil liberties, including, but not limited to, freedom of speech and of the press. Trump’s harsh attitude to the freedom of the press, such as his plan to “open up” libel laws, was viewed by many newspaper editorial boards as a threat to their profession and industry.
Trump received endorsements from only 20 daily newspapers and six weekly newspapers nationwide, of which only two, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union, had circulations of above 100,000. The small number of endorsements received by Trump was unprecedented in American history for a candidate from a major party.
Among the United States’ 100 largest newspapers by paid circulation, 57 endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, while only two, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Florida Times-Union, endorsed Trump. Four (the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the Charleston (South Carolina) Post and Courier) endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, while three other newspapers (USA Today, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) specifically discouraged their readers from voting for Trump. Clinton won support from not only traditionally Democratic-leaning newspapers, but also traditionally non-political and conservative newspapers, including those which had “either never before supported a Democrat or had not in many decades … or had never endorsed any presidential candidate, like USA Today.” The endorsements by a handful of newspapers of third party candidates, including independent candidate Evan McMullin as well as Johnson, broke from the usual practice of newspaper editorial boards endorsing a candidate from one of the two major parties.
Summary of newspaper and magazine endorsements in the 2016 United States presidential election
|Not Donald Trump||8||2||4||12||4||30|
|Not Hillary Clinton||1||0||0||0||0||1|
Summary of daily newspapers
|Candidate||Endorsements||Breakdown by 2012 endorsement|
|99 Barack Obama; 47 Mitt Romney; 19 No endorsement; 1 Split endorsement; 76 Undetermined|
|38 Mitt Romney; 2 Barack Obama; 2 No endorsement; 11 Undetermined|
|14 Mitt Romney; 6 Undetermined|
|2 Barack Obama; 5 Mitt Romney; 2 Undetermined|
|Not Donald Trump||
|2 Mitt Romney; 1 Barack Obama; 4 No endorsement; 1 Undetermined|
|2 Split endorsement|
|Not Hillary Clinton||