Do newspaper endorsements matter?

When is the last time your vote was influenced by a newspaper editorial endorsement?

The effectiveness of the newspaper endorsement is debatable, but there might be fallout from newspapers not endorsing candidates an issues.

Media monitor Jim Romenesko says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has decided it will take no role in endorsing candidates in the presidential and Senate races

“Inside the paper, I’m told, there’s the feeling that ‘we have two tough picks to make and we’re taking a pass,’ and the paper is less relevant because of it,” he writes today.

Milwaukee columnist Bruce Murphy says the paper took a lot of heat when it endorsed in the recent recall election. It raises the question, though, that if a newspaper is unwilling to get in the middle of a public fray, what’s the point of having an editorial department?

Newspapers like the JS are bleeding readers, ads and staff at an alarming rate. I’m guessing the editors decided it just wasn’t worth the blowback to do endorsements, all the more so when the evidence suggest they have little impact on readers anyway.

I think it’s an inevitable and probably smart decision by the newspaper, but it does present it with a big challenge: to reinvent the editorial page. The fact is that policy editorials, the kind listed by Dold, typically get very little readership, whereas candidate endorsements get much more discussion and exposure, including in ads by candidates.

Will the newspaper continue to devote the resources, the staff time it takes to write thoughtful, policy wonk editorials that get low readership? Once you dump editorial endorsements, isn’t the whole editorial page up for grabs?

Meanwhile, this weekend is the weekend when newspapers trot out the big endorsements. NPR’s David Folkenflik says the Pioneer Press will not endorse in the presidential race. In his story, he notes that some experts say editorials only matter in local races, not the national ones. So, contrary to the old axiom, all politics isn’t local.