The liberal media loves Republicans

Ted Streuli, BridgeTower Media Newswires

Newspapers have been endorsing presidential candidates for more than a century. But their collective leanings aren't what the idiots driving around with the "I don't trust the liberal media" bumper stickers want to believe.

Newspapers report political news from the front row. They know more about each candidate's personality, preferences, and policies than any arms-length observer. They hear the water-cooler conversations and the see the squabbles.

That intimate knowledge means newspapers' candidate endorsements carry more weight than most. After all, who has more information about the candidates than the news media? They've heard every rumor, fact-checked every pronouncement, had reporters traipsing along the campaign trail for every press conference, fundraiser and baby kiss.

In the 1972 election, when Nixon beat McGovern in a bona fide landslide, 753 newspapers endorsed the Republican candidate while only 56 endorsed the Democrat. The Republican was a heavy newspaper favorite again in 1976, when 411 papers stood with Gerald Ford and only 80 supported Jimmy Carter. In fact, from 1972 to 1988, Republicans carried 84 percent of editorial page endorsements.

The trend goes back even further. Since Roosevelt beat Willkie in 1940, when 64 percent of newspapers endorsed the Republican, only four Democrats have been favored by newspapers: Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater in 1964 by a tiny margin; Bill Clinton over George H.W. Bush in 1992 (but newspapers supported Bob Dole over Clinton in 1996) ; John Kerry over George W. Bush 51-49 in 2004; and Barack Obama over both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

But newspaper endorsements no longer sway voters the way they once did. There was a time when a local daily paper knew its community, it knew the candidates, and it was one of the few sources of election information for that city. Now, newspaper endorsements are but an eighth-note in a cacophony of political opinions, some informed, some wild guesses, some based on nothing more than what will attract listeners, viewers or page hits.

In 1940 the U.S. had 1,878 daily newspapers. From 1945 to 1980, the number remained consistent, hovering around 1,750. But by 2005 the count was down to 1,452, then 1,382 in 2011. The newspaper workforce has shrunk by about 20,000 positions, or 39 percent, in the last 20 years, according to Pew Research.

Although electronic readership has increased, print readership has continued to decline. According to Pew, 86 percent of Sunday newspaper circulation is in print, and 78 percent of weekday circulation is ink-on-paper.

On the web, it has become a great deal harder to differentiate the significance of the opinion of one ill-informed writer on a well-designed blog from that of an editorial board that has researched, reasoned and debated its position before decreeing the candidate of choice.

Consequently, it has gone largely unnoticed that newspapers have a heavy leaning in this presidential race.

Of those considered noteworthy, 83 newspapers have endorsed Hillary Clinton. They range from those one might expect the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and New York Times, for example to some startling surprises, including the Arizona Republic, Dallas Morning News, and Idaho Statesman. Some of those initially endorsed Republican candidates and shifted support after their candidate withdrew. The Houston Chronicle, for example, first endorsed Jeb Bush. The paper now supports Clinton.

Locally, the Tulsa World, which has endorsed every Republican presidential candidate since 1940, on Aug. 8 declined to endorse any candidate in 2016. The Oklahoman has not yet expressed a preference, and The Journal Record does not endorse political candidates.

Most telling is that Republican nominee Donald Trump has secured the endorsements of only three newspapers: the New York Post, Santa Barbara News-Press, and the National Enquirer.

And I'll bet at least one of those is really just betting on four years of punchy headlines.

Published: Fri, Sep 16, 2016

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