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  • Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal

    Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    The Plain Dealer's do-it-yourself endorsement  

    The Plain Dealer can begin calling itself The Readers Newspaper, because Tuesday it officially abandoned its professional responsibility to everyone with a couple quarters to rub together. Ohio's largest newspaper has chosen to sit on the sidelines of this important presidential election under the guise of believing its ``readers are perfectly capable of judging...'' They're right about that. But The Plain Dealer's readers deserve to know the collective reasoning of the newspaper's editorial board and have a chance to judge how it frames its argument for either President Bush or Sen. John Kerry. Instead, readers have foisted off on them the worst of the editorialist's craft - the wishy-washy on-the-one-hand but on-the-other-hand excuse for a non-endorsement.

    The reason is simple, at least based on what Ohioblog hears: Publisher Alex Machaskee wanted to endorse Bush, the editorial board - though not unanimous - favored Kerry. When these moments occur, it's the newspaper's responsibility to resolve them and explain them, not to abdicate and certainly not to lay its shortcomings on the readers.

    The Plain Dealer has spent much time and effort positioning itself to help lead Northeast Ohio out of the economic doldrums that it called ``The Quiet Crisis'' and which have contributed to Cleveland's status as America's poorest big city. Why should anyone look to the PD for leadership now? It can't even resolve its own leadership issues.

    It would have been preferable to endorse Bush and make the case for the president (plenty of other newspapers have) than to join The Detroit News, the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal and, no doubt, others on the sideline at this critical time. Some readers will applaud the PD's decision. They believe newspapers should be read and not heard. The editorial board of The Plain Dealer knows better. If not, why fill pages day after day with opinions on subjects of far less consequence than who leads this nation in a time of war and crisis?

    Oh yeah. It's because, ``We believe our readers are perfectly capable of making an informed, rational decision by their own lights, and we strongly urge them to do so.'' Just don't expect The Plain Dealer editorial page to help.

    And elsewhere, they understand responsibility

    Karen Hunter, the readers representative at The Hartford Courant, explained there is a reason to endorse candidates despite the fact ``research shows political endorsements have little impact on most readers.'' She noted that Publisher Jack Davis and Deputy Editorial Page Editor Robert Schrepf ``view endorsements as the newspaper's responsibility.'' And Davis amplified upon that responsibility: ``Not so much because we're expecting to influence the election but because we want to give (readers) the benefit of having spent so much time analyzing the election.'' Guess responsibility is taken more seriously in Hartford than in Cleveland. The Courant endorsed George W. Bush.

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 11:03 AM

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