Monday, October 12, 2009

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Taking a Shortcut to Irrelevance?

Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionImage by cytosine via Flickr
The Associated Press reports that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has decided not to endorse candidates as part of its election coverage.

The editorial board purportedly is taking marching orders from its readers, which it claims don't need the newspaper to tell them for whom to vote, but rather, to provide information about the candidates' backgrounds, accomplishments and policy aims.

"TUOL" isn't buying it.  It looks like timidity, a newspaper afraid that it might alienate a shrinking readership base by supporting a candidate and being branded "liberal" or "ultra-conversative."  Newspapers attend political gatherings and interview candidates 1 on 1 with the proxy of  readers. These readers have an obligation as citizens to inform themselves about the officials they elect, and should be able to look to their newspaper's editorial board's choice for guidance, not fiat.

The Journal-Constitution apparently is willing to shrug its shoulders--along with its responsibility--and leave it to bloggers, partisan and non-partisan, to carry on its duty. The Journal-Constitution is the flagship paper of Cox Enterprises, Inc.
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  1. The reader's are ignorant and that makes them afraid. They're afraid of being influenced by the AJC's endorsements. It's the same kind of ignorance that leads to hatred. Mere information is useless to them.They'd play with it. The readers need leadership, the kind that a newspaper can provide. I agree with you. AJC is abdicating their responsibility. What's their excuse?

  2. It's true that newspapers can exhibit hubris and exceed their role of informing the electorate and instead attempt to control it. For example, when former KKK leader David Duke opposed Gov. Edwin Edwards in the Louisiana gubernatorial race (wanted to use the word "race" because of Duke; a Klansman versus a convicted felon), the Times-Picuyune wrote editorials endorsing Edwards daily for one consecutive week (a victorious Edwards rewarded the voters by getting indicted again). Still, it is the job of reporters and editorial writers to command issues and parse the differences among candidates for the benefit of readers. Staying above the fray because readers presumably complained that they didn't need to be told for whom to vote, as the AJC claims, is a cop-out in the opinion of "TUOL."

  3. Obviously, not all readers are ignorant. In the current political climate, however, the people who scream loudest about independence are small, damp, tea-baggers and the tendency is for media organizations to buckle under to conservative pressure, not the liberal kind (whatever that is.) Your point about newspaper hubris is well taken. Another example would be the Chandler family, who, for three generations, used the LA Times for every purpose except gathering and publishing news.