Is newspaper endorsing an OK thing? - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Chris Hrapsky

Is newspaper endorsing an OK thing?

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ROCHESTER, MN (FOX 47) -- It's Journalism Ethics 101: Write factual and impartial stories that represent both sides leaving any judgement to the audience.

So why do newspapers endorse one candidate over another during election seasons?

In 2004, 29 percent of newspapers in the U.S. endorsed a presidential candidate.

But is it ethically the right thing to do?

Rochester Post-Bulletin Publisher Randy Chapman says, "To me it's a surprise that people wonder why newspapers endorse. I think it's our responsibility to the community."

The Post-Bulletin has endorsed political candidates for decades. By the end of this week, the editorial staff will make its vote on nearly every race in Southeast Minnesota.

"The opinion page is just that, opinion," says Editorial Page Editor Greg Sellnow. 

Sellnow says its the opinion of some of the most well-informed and balanced political journalists  in the area.  After all, it is their job.

But not every paper does it.  Even editors in the industry disagree with this endorsing custom.

Founder of USA Today Al Neuharth writes, "If decision makers at newspapers quit trying to be kingmakers, they and their readers would benefit."

Sellnow says, "We're not trying to be kingmakers. That's not the purpose of an endorsement. We view this as a public service."

At the PB, the editorial staff made up of five or six writers review candidates and their positions together.  Then they vote on who the editorial board will endorse.

"We do come to the assumption or conclusion that certain candidates are better suited for the position," says Chapman.

Informing or selling out?

It may be no different than asking a librarian what book to read or a waiter what's best on the menu.

In the end it's the readers' votes that decide the elections, not the paper.

The Post-Bulletin has not endorsed a presidential candidate yet. They believe in sitting down with the candidates equally before endorsing - something they were not able to do this year with the presidential hopefuls.

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