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  • Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal

    Friday, October 22, 2004

    Welcome to the real world of endorsements 

    The Plain Dealer's editorial endorsement for president should be interesting, if this third-hand information is correct. It comes to Ohioblog via a friend who discovered it at Atrois with the e-mail address of attached. Anyway, here's what's out there in the wonderful world of cyperspace:

    ``According to a source at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, earlier this week the editorial board agreed by consensus to endorse John Kerry for President this Sunday, Oct. 24, 2004.

    ``However, Alex Machaskee, publisher, president and CEO of The Plain Dealer, and friend to the rich and powerful, will have no such thing. Machaskee unilaterally overturned their decision and will in effect hijack the editorial page this Sunday with an endorsement of Geroge W. Bush.

    ``The Editorial Board of the PD consists of the opinion editor, Brent Larkin, the editor, Doug Clifton, the publisher, Alex Machaskee, and other editorial staff (members).

    ``Traditionally, in deciding endorsements, an editorial writer takes the lead in interviewing candidates or leaders of issue campaigns. A discussion then ensues. The lead writer makes a recommendation and other editorial board members express their views. In the case of the presidential race, the entire board is involved in the process of interviewing the candidates or representatives of the campaigns. Through discussion and debate, the editorial board comes to a consensus. And the final decision rests with the editorial page editor.

    ``Apparently, this is not how it happens in Cleveland.

    ``Although the opinions stated on the editorial page of The Plain Dealer have been consistently critical of the current administration, and although the editorial board and its leader agreed to endorse John Kerry, the publisher will satisfy his own agenda by overturning that decision. Sunday's Cleveland Plain Dealer will carry an endorsement of George W. Bush.

    ``Enraged by this action, the editorial staff has discussed a walk-out. Unfortunately, however, economic realities will probably intervene....and big business will win again.''

    Here's a corollary to the above: In Ohioblog's experience, the final decision for presidential endorsements almost always rest with the publisher, not the editorial page editor. And the PD would hardly be the only newspaper at which the publisher pulls rank and orders the editorial board to endorse a candidate different from its collective thinking. Day-in, day-out, editorial boards make decisions with little or no direct input from a publisher other than the publication's
    overarching philosophy. But when push comes to shove, it is never staff that has the last word. You live with it or you get your own newspaper (today that would be a blog on the Internet rather than something with a printing press).

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 8:29 AM

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