Do we care about editorial endorsements?

Every four years, at about this time of year, daily newspapers endorse one candidate for the Presidency or the other, and we know which candidate will be indorsed by what paper. The Seattle Times has editorially endorsed Obama – no surprise – and the New York Times will follow suit. (They have endorsed him in every way but “officially.”) Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has editorially endorsed John McCain. No surprises. The Washington Times will probably back him as well, eventually.

Who cares? Well, they do. It makes them feel worthwhile and influential, and they can talk about having endorsed someone. Most voters do not care. Those of us with an interest in media bias could react with anger or with a shrug: these things are predictable, and often very poorly written, ill-constructed, faulty arguments, such as is the case with the Seattle paper’s attack on President Bush and appeal to the meaningless notion of Hopechangehope.

Something interesting. In Alabama, the Hunstville Times has endorsed… absolutely nobody, thankyouvery much. Editorial Page editor John Ehinger writes:

Let me get to the point: This presidential election year, The Times’ editorial board has decided not to recommend (or, if you prefer, “endorse”) a presidential candidate. This isn’t the first time we’ve made such a decision, but it’s the first time we’ve made the decision for the following reasons:

Our strength is state and local issues and subjects. While TV and radio have local news, it tends to be narrow and limited in quantity. If you want to know what the city Planning Commission did last week, where do you look? To The Times, of course.

At the same time, Americans who have a particular interest in a national or international topic can focus on that one topic, such as a presidential campaign, to the exclusion of everything else. To that end, they have unlimited resources as close as their keyboard. And we want to bring insights you can’t get everywhere else.

Finally, and this is the most important consideration, we don’t have access to the candidates. I can’t call Barack Obama or John McCain (and maybe not even Bob Barr) and ask them to come in to meet with the six-member editorial board.

That, my friends, is refreshingly unpretentious and very true. People neither need to know nor care whom a newspaper’s editorial board wants to be President. And those editorial boards which can imperiously hold court with the Presidential nominees are like the biddies on ABC’s The View: Their minds are made up by their party identification, and they will allow nothing to intrude upon their prefabricated opinions.

The Huntsville Times’ Ehinger challenges the paper’s readers to offer their “editorial” opinions on who should be President:

Write us a commentary of up to 800 words. Submit it in hard-copy form, double-spaced. Include your name, address and phone number on a separate sheet. Each entry will be numbered sequentially as the entries arrive. The judges will know they’re reading, say, entry No. 11. They just won’t know who wrote it.

The paper will pick on McCain endorsement and one Obama endorsement. I look forward to reading the winners, and I applaud John Ehinger and the Hunstville Times.