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Media's anti-Trump storyline of the week: No newspapers are endorsing Trump!
Newsmakers, news reporters and (they hope) news influencers all in one.
In followup to Rob's piece yesterday about the Detroit News's embarrassing endorsement of the clueless Gary Johnson (and full disclosure, like Rob I too have served as a contributor to the News and sometimes still do), we now have today's edition the Newspaper Endorsements As Big News Development storyline, which has become the media's go-to topic of the week. USA Today breathlessly informs us that they too have made history or something:
In the 34-year history of USA TODAY, the Editorial Board has never taken sides in the presidential race. Instead, we’ve expressed opinions about the major issues and haven’t presumed to tell our readers, who have a variety of priorities and values, which choice is best for them. Because every presidential race is different, we revisit our no-endorsement policy every four years. We’ve never seen reason to alter our approach. Until now.
This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.
From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.
So bold! So groundbreaking! So historic! Eh, sure it is. A media organization taking an all-encompassing shot at Donald Trump requires about as much courage as denouncing illiteracy or obesity. It's a follow-the-leader move that parrots the orthodoxy of the industry. But it's giving the rest of the media something to talk about, and they're taking full advantage. Intelligent as a post, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer takes the lead:
Six conservative and staunchly Republican newspapers, which stayed loyal to Herbert Hoover and backed Barry Goldwater, have denounced 2016 GOP nominee Donald Trump and opted to endorse his opponents.
In the past two days, the Arizona Republic has supported Hillary Clinton as "mature, confident and rational" in contrast to Trump. The Detroit News has backed Libertarian Gary Johnson and described Trump as "unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous."
The Detroit News has been endorsing Republican presidential candidates for 143 years, but said Thursday: "We abandon that long and estimable tradition this year for one reason: Donald Trump."
USA Today broke tradition in a different way. The paper has never taken sides in its 34-year history, but declared late Thursday that the 2016 election is unlike any other, saying:
"This year, the choice isn't between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates -- Republican nominee Donald Trump -- is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.
New Yorker Magazine is also very excited:
In the age of social media and party polarization, newspaper endorsements can seem less than significant. After all, how many voters put more stock in the opinion of an editorial board than in the consensus of their friends’ Facebook posts?
But, in an election where reactionary frog memes have earned copious media coverage, newspaper endorsements might be making an improbable comeback. In recent weeks, the Dallas Morning News, Cincinnati Enquirer,and Arizona Republic all made national headlines by bucking decades — or in the Republic’s case, a full century — of precedent and picking the Democratic nominee over Donald Trump.
A recent study by Northwestern University economist Agustin Casas found that such “surprise endorsements” can impact a modern presidential race — or, at least, they can impact the way online-gambling addicts view such contests.
The New Yorker piece, I think, gives away the game more than it speculates on what might happen. It's not that editorial boards are making these surprising decisions, and lo and behold, it's generating buzz. The anti-Trump editorials are designed to create news coverage. That's the whole point. Far from the traditional role of the newspaper endorsement that's confined to the editorial page, this year's anti-Trump missives are followed by massive coverage of the decision and followup discussion.
The Detroit News editors were all over social media yesterday with a video discussing their decision. It's not just a matter of putting the endorsement on the record. The editorial itself does that. It's a matter of promoting and marketing it for maximum effect.
This is a case of the media creating news for itself to cover. We'll refuse to endorse Trump! We'll report on our refusal to endorse Trump! We'll report on others' refusal to endorse Trump! We'll report about how Trump is getting no endorsements!
And of course, they're giving Hillary and her supporters something to talk about too. Trump's rise in the polls last week scared the living crap out of all these people, and they've stepped up their war on Trump to the point where they're no longer ever pretending to be objective. Defeating Trump is the media's goal, and they hardly even care if you know it anymore. Their hope is that the steady stream of anti-Trump narratives and storylines simply wears you down, even if you can clearly see what's going on.
Don't expect it to get any better as we get close to Election Day. It won't. And if they have to keep making the news themselves so they can report it, who's going to stop them?