Friday, October 19, 2012

Do newspaper endorsements matter?

Salt Lake City Tribune endorses President Obama
Not really.

Maybe they had an impact 50 years ago, but newspaper subscriptions have plummeted since then.

In cities where you once had three daily newspapers, you're lucky to have one left that publishes every day of the week.

And yet, newspaper endorsements still get a lot of airplay in the digital age.

The most shocking endorsement, so far, occurred today when Utah's largest daily newspaper, the Salt Lake City Tribune, endorsed President Obama over Mitt Romney, a loyal Mormon, BYU grad and the "savior" of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In an editorial titled "Too Many Mitts," the Tribune states:

"In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.
Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first."
It's worth reading the entire editorial and, of course, the apoplectic comments afterward.
I expected this editorial in the New York Times, but in Utah's largest daily newspaper?
Not in a million years.
This does not mean that President Obama will win Utah. No, he'll lose by 80 percent to 20 percent or worse, so the Obama endorsement doesn't matter.
But, Mitt will lose, by wide margins, the state (Michigan) where he grew up, the state (Massachusetts) where he governed and the state (California) where he's adding an elevator for his cars at his seaside mansion.
Yet, the earthquake the Salt Lake City Tribune delivered with its take-down of Mormon Mitt is likely to reverberate across the landscape. 
It also means that the Tribune did itself no favors in trying to hang on to its declining readership. In fact, this endorsement could put the Tribune out of business.

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