Newspapers defend their right to endorse candidates during elections while maintaining objectivity
Candidate endorsement is as much a time-honored tradition as elections are, and this year is no exception as newspapers across the state weigh in with their choices for the best candidates running for local, state and national office.
While newspapers such as the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Daily Camera and other local publications have been endorsing candidates for years, the practice is not without its critics, who have accused the papers of violating journalistic objectivity and unfairly influencing voters.
In her editorial to the Colorado Daily earlier this month (entitled “Should The Media Be Endorsing Candidates Anyway?”), Jessica Langfeldt, a senior political science major, accused the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News of selling themselves to partisanship as a “liberal news source” when both chose to endorse gubernatorial candidate Democrat Bill Ritter over Republican Bob Beauprez.
Political science graduate student Josh Ryan fired back at Langfeldt’s comments in his own editorial to the Daily, “Langfeldt Way Off Base.”
“The media has the responsibility as the ‘Fourth Estate’ to evaluate the information it has available to it and inform its readers of what it thinks,” Ryan said.
Clint Talbott, associate editorial editor for the Daily Camera, clarified that candidate endorsements are a product of the newspaper’s editorial board, which operates independently of the rest of the paper.
“Neither the editorial-page editor nor I has anything to do with the news coverage,” Talbott said. “News editors and reporters are not influenced by our endorsements.”
Talbott went on to describe the endorsement process for the Camera, which includes interviews with each of the candidates, as well as interviews with groups who oppose and support separate ballot measures.
“Our endorsements are based on those interviews, and, of course, reflect our own views,” he said.
The Rocky Mountain News editorial board echoed a similar selection process, saying their choices are a result of the candidate’s political views, persuasiveness, experience within and outside of politics, and, if that person has held office before, effectiveness.
This election year, Ritter has been endorsed by the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Daily Camera, while Beauprez has been backed by the Longmont Daily Times-Call and the Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald.
Other endorsements of note include a sweep in favor of Referendum I (domestic partnerships), the Rocky Mountain News being the sole endorsement of Amendment 43 (marriage definition) and an endorsement of ‘no’ on Amendment 44 (marijuana) by the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Daily Camera.
As to whether candidate endorsements unfairly influence voters or not, the debate rages on. While opponents of endorsements say they are tired of being told how to vote, Ryan argues a different perspective.
“I want my newspapers to publish editorials and select candidates,” Ryan said. “A well-informed citizen should consider a variety of sources, then make up his or her mind as to which source makes the most compelling argument.”