Do newspaper endorsements matter anymore?
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There's no editorial that saps a newspaper's psychic energy more than a presidential endorsement. It's a source of institutional pride and self-image, often the result of vigorous debate.
Now the elite press is exhibiting righteous indignation, and verging on frenetic exhaustion, as it makes the case against Donald Trump. But, like last night's drab vice presidential debate, will it matter?
The American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara is a toll keeper of endorsements. When it comes to major papers so far, 17 have endorsed Hillary Clinton and three backed Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Detroit News and Chicago Tribune). There's one anti-Trump editorial (USA Today) and one "a plague on both your houses" non-endorsement (The Tulsa World). Of this whole group, at least nine backed Mitt Romney in 2012.
There are lots of firsts. For the first time in its 126 years, The Arizona Republic backed a Democrat for president. For the first time in its 143 years, The Detroit News didn't endorse a Republican (it didn't endorse anybody three times). It's the first time in its 148 years The San Diego Union-Tribune went with a Democrat.
"In a normal election I suppose I would say that newspaper endorsements are surely better to have than not have," says Matthew Baum, a public policy expert at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Yes, their impact has been declining for a long time, even if the species has some clout left, especially in tight local races such as frequently uncovered judicial contests. But you'd think that in a presidential contest, a consensus for or against somebody would matter.
But, "This year is not normal, in that for Trump’s core supporters, it really doesn’t matter what elites on either side say," Baum says. "After all, they (papers) mostly all opposed him in the primaries too, and look how that turned out."
Perhaps it matters for some marginal supporters. And there's the issue of predictable positions. "For the NY Times to endorse Clinton probably doesn’t move a lot of folks, though it can serve to rally the base a bit. For a conservative/Republican newspaper to un-endorse Trump could potentially have a modest turnout-depressing effect, or push a few folks toward third-parties."
But that probably doesn't help Clinton much, or any more than running mate Tim Kaine did last night during the vice presidential debate. "Most of Trump’s supporters won’t be moved," says Baum.
The Veep debate
The vice presidential debate prompted the press, especially cable TV news, to offer marathon analysis qualified by a wink-wink admission of the event's irrelevance. Then came the debate: 90 minutes of often dreary crosstalk by two, well-prepped White males that reminded me of my late Viennese grandmother's languorous, if intense bridge games with her immigrant buddies in New York City.
Thank god the debate wasn't accompanied by live fact-checking from the moderator, given the many tall tales unspooled in real-time.
Admirable efforts by media outlets provided far more information, however. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times were among the best (The Times' format was dandy by raising a question and answering with one word in yellow typeface that one could then click on for more details).
When over, pundits used the word "needle" about 345 times (maybe 346) to inform us that not much would change ("the needle probably didn't move"). And Megyn Kelly of Fox hosted two memorable moments: A) Charles Krauthammer announcing "the real loser" was moderator Elaine Quijano, a digital anchor for CBS News who did lose control often and B) Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon saying flat out that Iran's nuclear program had stopped as a result of the deal with the big deal. That nonplussed normally nonplussable Kelly.
Twitter on the block
"Twitter Inc. is expected to field bids this week, and Marc Benioff has been building a case to Salesforce.com Inc. investors and others that his company should be the buyer, according to people familiar with the matter." (The Wall Street Journal) Bloomberg and CNBC last month disclosed Salesforce's interest.
The morning babble
"Fox & Friends" was edifying via a montage that underscored how dourly aggressive Kaine interrupted Mike Pence 70 times last night (Pence returned the favor 40 times). On CNN's "New Day," pundit Errol Louis gave the performance nod to Pence, with David Gregory calling Kaine "too high-octane." Consensus: Kaine too aggressive, Pence too defensive, even deflective in not confronting Trump craziness.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" was diverted briefly by video of Bill Clinton trashing Obamacare Monday (remarks he strained to clarify Tuesday). They were so taken aback, Nicolle Wallace asked to see the clip again. Joe Scarborough obliged, with the extemporaneous introduction that here was "Bill Clinton trying to destroy his wife's campaign."
Alleged sloppy security at Yahoo
An unidentified "former Yahoo executive' says that CEO Marissa Mayer "kept secrets from key members of the security team, raising more questions about business practices at the troubled internet company." (Business Insider)
This unidentified soul repeats an argument that the company's "security team was often denied funding and sometimes kept in the dark at Mayer's direction, as she feared more emphasis on security could potentially spur a decline in the company's user base."
He created a form of high-brow participatory journalism with books like "Out of My League: The Classic Account of an Amateur’s Ordeal in Professional Baseball," "Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback" and "The Bogey Man: A Month on the PGA Tour."
But, "Plimpton was only a journalist in the sense that James Thurber was an illustrator and Robert Benchley a newspaper columnist. He went places, spoke to people, and wrote down his observations, but the reporting wasn’t the point. What was the point? The storytelling, the humanity, the comedy." (The New York Review of Books) Check out author Nathaniel Rich's essay, which includes this aside:
"Paul Gallico wasn’t the first writer to hit upon the participatory premise. As Jane Leavy points out in her foreward to "Out of My League," Mark Twain went surfing in 1866 on assignment for the Sacramento Union (he wipes out instantly) and Dickens wrote about hiking Mount Vesuvius for his Daily News (at the brim of the volcano his clothing bursts into flames)."
Media, don't let your advertisers see this
"Advertising can increase sales for a company, but it can also unintentionally promote a competitor." (Stanford Graduate School of Business) Huh?
"Navdeep Sahni, associate professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, discovered this 'spillover' effect through field experiments examining online banner ads. In some cases, the cumulative positive effect across hundreds of competitors’ sales was up to five times bigger than the positive effect on the company doing the advertising." He concludes, “If you see one product, it may remind you of other similar competing products.”
Bruce plugs his book
At Powell's City of Books, "hundreds, perhaps thousands waited to make their way up to Powell's Pearl Room. By 10 a.m., two hours before his scheduled start, the crowd stretched around the building and onto Burnside: one fan, first in line, had arrived at midnight." (The Oregonian)
"As the press stood upstairs, three small bottles of Fiji Water waited next to a Powell's backdrop, as if Springsteen was coming to a red carpet. Powell's employees gathered in their green shirts, absorbing the assembly line instructions for the afternoon: grab that camera, and the next two, keep the photos and the fans moving. Springsteen entered through a fire door, took the stage with a grin and a wave of his arms, and then, just like that, the rush of people began."
Obama, sports and race
The Undefeated, ESPN's site on sports, race and culture, is the appropriate host next Tuesday for a student forum on "Sports, Race and Achievement." (The Undefeated) It will be taped at North Carolina A&T State University, a Historically Black college founded in 1891 (it's Obama's first appearance there) and air that night at 10 p.m. on ESPN.
Don't bet the mortgage on this
The baseball playoffs began last night and Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight concedes, "The postseason has a tendency to make fools of us all: Wild cards have won before, they will win again, and even the best team in the league doesn’t have much better than one-in-four odds of winning the World Series." That said, it does some number crunching and concludes the Chicago Cubs, long iconic for losing, have the best chance, or a 26 percent chance, of going all the way. (FiveThirtyEight)
Crowdfunding journalism (Part 1)
The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold is among those who've drawn attention for pulling off successful crowdsourcing to product great work. Crowdfunding good work is trickier. Since 2015 the startups Spot.Us, Contributoria and, now, Beacon have crashed, "joining Emphas.is, Vourno, and Indie Voices as unsuccessful experiments in journalism-specific crowdfunding." (MediaShift)
"Since Beacon’s launch in 2013, the Texas Tribune, the Huffington Post, NJ Spotlight, PolitiFact, InvestigateWest, and dozens of other news organizations had all run successful crowdfunding campaigns on Beacon, and in 2015 alone, the platform helped journalists crowdfund more than $1.5 million." But it's no longer supporting projects.
Crowdfunding (Part. 2)
Here's the glass half-full via a very strong piece. "In St. Louis, crowdfunding has spawned a unique partnership that’s kept a reporter covering Ferguson after most national media left the city. In the Netherlands, crowdfunding helped launch a newsroom that’s rethinking the daily news cycle. Crowdfunding has provided the seed money to launch an education magazine for young girls, to publish a book on Japanese video game developers, and to fact-check politicians in Argentina, among hundreds of other projects." (NiemanReports) It's very much worth a read.
No, a Gannett-tronc deal isn't "imminent"
There was a weekend report in Politico about an "imminent" purchase. But this is closer to the current reality when it comes to Gannett buying what was known as Tribune Publishing and includes the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune: "Gannett Co. and Tronc Inc. have bridged a valuation gap that caused months of friction, but are still hammering out the details of a transaction, people familiar with the situation said....The parties haven't reached a final agreement, and an announcement isn't imminent." (Bloomberg)
And where's WikiLeaks" "October Surprise?"
Reporters have been waiting for Julian Assange's latest disclosures, perhaps harmful to Clinton. Many thought Tuesday was the day. "But that never happened. It was all a big tease that had Donald Trump’s supporters salivating, and then crushed." (The Washington Post) Assange later said there would be revelations but was coy on the topic. "Has Assange gone around the bend?" Being holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London could do it to you.