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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Newspaper Endorsements: Prized, But Often Ignored

The power of newspaper endorsements has faded, but candidates still compete for them.
EnlargeJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
The power of newspaper endorsements has faded, but candidates still compete for them.

At the heart of Mitt Romney Mormon Country the Salt Lake City Tribune, owned by Mormons, endorsed Barack Obama. Elsewhere the bulk of endorsements, even in conservative publications, came down for Barack Obama as well, but will that make any difference in the election?
The theory is that a reasoned editorial board takes in the facts, fact checks, looks at the qualifications needed, understands its market and its readers, and makes a decision based on their experience, expertise and knowledge. It is an informed decision, and this year often against the basic political intersts of the publlisher. But in an age of short video clips, attack ads, and negative slogans will reasoned research and the endorsement of publications, or any media for that matter, make any difference?
This weekend, a slew of newspapers in key swing states including Ohio are expected to release their endorsements for the presidency and other elected positions.
Such external validation is highly prized by candidates, but it's no longer entirely clear why.
The Columbus Dispatch gave a strong endorsement of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney last week, saying President Obama had failed: "Romney brings a wealth of executive experience in the private sector and the public sector that dwarfs that of Obama."
The Dispatch is the dominant paper in central Ohio, a swing region in one of the most vital swing states for this presidential field.
Voters Not Swayed
Yet even those voters who read the paper say they could have guessed who won its endorsement blindfolded.
"The Dispatch is traditionally a very conservative newspaper," said Matthew Burton, a 41-year-old stay-at-home father and Obama fan who lives just outside Columbus with his family. "There's the saying they've always endorsed every Republican since Woodrow Wilson. I'd be more surprised if they endorsed a national Democrat."
In interviews, a dozen voters suggested they put little to no stock in the editorials, even when they read the papers, and even when they fervently agree with those endorsements.
"Honestly, it doesn't influence me at all. There's definitely an underlying mistrust in the media from my perspective," said restaurant manager Mark Piscionari, a Romney supporter who said he preferred "doing my own research and doing my own homework."
"The endorsement really has no impact on my thought — or who I will vote for," said computer consultant Chris Malloy, who said he remained unsure of how he will vote. "My opinion is as valid as the editor of the newspaper, and it's my vote, so I will decide for myself."
"I think the people should be the ones to make the decisions — as opposed to these newspapers," said Himie-Budu Shannon, a deacon at an Episcopalian church. He said he will drive a bus from his church to voting stations on Election Day, a tacit move to get out the vote for his preferred candidate, Obama.
He said it did not influence him for a moment that his hometown Cleveland Plain Dealer strongly supported Obama for a second term. Asked if he remembered when he last relied on newspapers for guidance, Shannon responded: "As a child. Not since I became mature."
Newspapers' Decline
It's not that these Ohioans — and others like them — are not plugged in. They said they follow politics closely through the Drudge Report, NPR, cable news, PBS NewsHour to the Economist and the Guardian. All cited online aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo News.
That's reflective of newspapers' status in many markets: fading print monopolies struggling with sharply reduced paid circulation compared with a decade ago.
Newspapers in some smaller cities dotted across the country still bear names that betray (or honor, take your pick) their partisan roots, such as Foster's Daily Democrat in New Hampshire and the Waterbury Republican-American in Connecticut.
The move toward objectivity as a journalistic aim in reporting mirrored the decline of vibrant multi-newspaper towns, as surviving newspapers wanted to capture readers, not alienate them.
Some major papers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, no longer make presidential endorsements. USA Today never did. And yet campaigns fixate over which candidate has won more, as the Washington Post recently wrote.
On Wednesday, Obama yielded to criticism from the Des Moines Register, the largest paper in the swing state of Iowa, and allowed publication of the full text of his off-the-record interview with the newspaper's executives.
David Holthaus. the new editorial page editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, set modest goals for the paper's endorsement. He said it's a civic duty to give readers the benefits of the paper's research.The Enquirer is set to announce its choice this weekend.
"What we would like to see is our voice added to the voices across the country," Holthaus said, "and, in that way, present what's important for our community and our readers and have a way to speak directly to the campaigns."
Paul Beck, political science professor emeritus at Ohio State, said such editorials now only really matter for local races — like judgeships.
"People who pay any attention to presidential politics have all this information about it," said Beck, who has tracked elections for more than 40 years. "They've seen the candidates in the debates. They have seen ... countless ads on television — so many that they are probably tuning them out as well. The newspaper endorsements are, I suspect, minor elements, if at all."
Some polling from Pew Research Center and others offers some support for that conclusion.
Can Newspapers Sway Undecided Voters?
One veteran of four Republican presidential campaigns, Dan Schnur, cited two factors: a shift in political strategy and a rise in polarization reflected both in the tone of new media outlets, such as Fox News and the Huffington Post, and the outlook of voters themselves.
"The primary goal of a presidential campaign in the 21st century is no longer to persuade a dwindling number of undecided voters — but rather to find a way to inspire and excite and motivate your strongest supporters," said Schnur, the director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. "A newspaper endorsement is much more effective at persuading someone who hasn't made up their minds."
And yet — for all that — Schnur, who was the communications director for Republican John McCain's presidential bid in 2000, disagreed with what has become the new conventional wisdom outside political circles.
"If you are the newspaper in the most important swing market in the most important swing state in a very close presidential election, you still matter a lot," Schnur said. "And the Columbus Dispatchendorsement really does matter."
(Dispatch editorial page editor Glenn Sheller declined to be interviewed for this story, writing in an email that he did not trust NPR to treat Republicans or conservatives fairly.)
Schnur said that Republicans could ensure that people far beyond the Dispatch's readership would learn of its endorsement, by incorporating it into TV advertisements, social media updates, radio commercials and direct mailings to convey momentum toward the White House and rally the faithful.
So in this case, Schnur said, limited to a vital battleground region, Buckeye newspaper editorialists might well help stimulate a few more Romney voters to hustle to the polls, and help pick a president.

Copyright Office Vetoes DVD Ripping

People who want to tinker with their DVDs in order to view the contents on tablets are out of luck, at least for now, thanks to a decision today by the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Librarian of Congress and Register of Copyrights today rejected a proposal to allow people to "space shift" by ripping DVDs. Technically, the officials didn't rule on copying, but on whether people should be able to circumvent digital rights management software in order to view movies without a DVD player. But given that virtually all DVDs have such software, the ruling prohibits people from legally reformatting movies to make them  compatible with tablets, laptops or other devices that lack a DVD reader.

The digital rights group Public Knowledge was among those who asked the Copyright Office to allow people to crack DRM in order to watch movies on tablets. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent DRM in most situations, but also empowers the Copyright Office to make exceptions to the anti-circumvention rules.

"Since the late 1990s, consumers have purchased billions of motion pictures on DVD," Public Knowledge argued in its comments to the Copyright Office. "As entertainment devices move away from containing DVD drives, many of those consumers have a legitimate desire to transfer their lawfully acquired motion picture from DVD into a format that is accessible on these newer devices."
But the regulators weren't persuaded. Why not? For one thing, the report issued today says that people don't have the right to access material in a "preferred format."

"Indeed," says the report, "copyright owners typically have the legal authority to decide whether and how to exploit new formats."

The Copyright Office also said that people can purchase a peripheral device for their DVDs, or use "an online subscription service to access and play desired content."

Public Knowledge says the decision "flies in the face of reality." The organization is urging Congress to amend the copyright law to explicitly state that space shifting is a fair use.

Robber Barron Election Tactics

Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson just contributed $1.5 million, the largest out-of-state contribution ever in Virginia, to George Allen's super PAC. Addelson has donated going on triple digit millions to Republican Campaigns this year/

It's about the many, not the money. 

Example of record breaking donations in the wake of the Supreme Courts undoing of 130 plus years of campaign reform..reform that ended the influence of the Robber Barons in the 19th and early 20th century. Modern Robber Barons buying elections just as their great-great ancestors did?

Presidential rhetoric: What we expect and what is not being said, and how it may be impacting our perception of what is news.

Missing this presidential year: climate change. The over riding interests in the economy and energy self sufficiency have upstaged it.

We have a media that is more interested in the overall story and creating a horse race or a ballgame instead of intellectual dialogue and honest reporting. 

The "tie" is based on national polls that do not reflect accurately on the country, much less the outcome of an Electoral College Based race. 

By reporting a horse race the media is actually bringing voters closer to voting on a tie or electing the challenger than would be the case if they were "fair and balanced" in their representation. Remember the media depends on advertising, based on distribution, six minute ratings sweeps and on increasing what advertisers say is the crucial 18 to 40 age group.

Media uses "interpretive journalism" where a commentator or journalist summarise the candidate with their own voice and with their own bias. In the "golden age" of journalism people would watch full debates, full speeches and "sound bites" were one to three minutes" instead of being measured in seconds.

Neutral organizations have determined that the media, overall, is slightly conservative, that NRP is slightly conservative, that FOX is far right and that most newspapers slant conservative. 50 years of academic research of patrician bias in academia disproves a patrician bias overall in the media. 

Still today's media tells us what to expect, shows us what they want, and tells us what we heard or "need to understand" in short bites, videos or increasingly shorter articles in lower level of reading expectations.

So the media and the people may have come to expect less of candidates, know less about the universe of what is going on and the factors involved, and look for single party, single issue or simply personality when they choose to vote. They are not digging into issues as in the past, and when they do often seek information that already agrees with their bias and pre-chosen candidate.

Newspapers and media are starting to endorse President Obama over former Governor Mitt Romney. There is one theory that while media is presenting a horse rave or sporting event, the reality of the electoral college means that they can gain by backing the right "horse". And their coverage of candidates may shift as we approach closer to the election as ratings takes a back seat to good will and maintaining the flow of a known government.

Jobs, energy Independence and the debt have successfully been brought to the front by the media, whether it reflects America or are issues that can be incendiary and divisive enough to drive ratings, sales and advertising.

Total debt to GDP is coming down and no where near as is implied by stating raw debt numbers, and in effect is far from a record in percentage, which is the key number not the total. Companies are not borrowing at today's low interest rates to reinvest in the economy, which carries far more power than whomever is in congress or the presidency. So the emphasis on our debt and the debt "cliff" are dramatic campaign year exaggerations. Yes, it needs to be addressed, but not urgently. No president can reduce the debt. It takes the increased prosperity only investing in American can bring, coupled with a long term commitment by the entity that sets the budget, specifically the House of Representatives and by extension the full Congress. Presidents administer but do not dictate. We do not live in a wave the magic want dictatorship

Presidents cannot control the economy. The legislative office has more power, but remains relatively weak. The truth is that the Chief Executive is not an Economic Czar. They cannot directly impact international factors that cause economic change. They cannot control the large international corporations (including American corporations who do business around the world) that at least have a small impact on the overall economy. They cannot undo the realities of the Great Recession or the artificial boom periods that proceeded it.

Energy is international in nature. The US and Canada export oil, together the second largest oil exporting  region in the world. We sell energy to other countries so how is there a shortage? Well, to the candidates it is an issue. The oil from the proposed new pipeline from Canada is headed, for the most part, to China, from US ports.

Only 43% of Republicans say climate change "may" be happening and only 60% of Americans (less than 30% of self identified Christians), yet it is a reality, directly tied to energy production, and in terms of international treaties, falls squarely in the hands of the president. It  was mentioned only once and by President Obama in a speech, not in a debate.

Not mentioned in debates and speeches so far: the state of our very large neighbor to the south. 60,000 Mexicans, or close to the number of Americans who dies in Viet Nam and twice the number who have died in Syria, have died in the Mexican drug war. Civil society, law enforcement and public safety in our neighboring Mexico are eroding. American care first about Americans, then in far off wars where US troops are known to be involved. Yet we are not on the ground in Syria and we are on the ground, as support, in Mexico)

-Art Lynch

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Marketplace Money, NPR, CNBC, New York Times.

Our Brains are Different with Allan Pease -Why men don't listen and women can't read maps -ro subb.

Learn the Body Language

Body Language with Alan Pease

From Ship To Sherlock: Doyle's 'Arctic' Diary

Audio for this story from Morning Edition 
On Thursday, July 29, 1880, Doyle wrote, "Came across a most extraordinary natural snow house, about 12 feet high, shaped like a beehive with a door and a fine room inside in which I sat. Traveled a considerable distance, and would have gone to the Pole, but my matches ran short and I couldn't get a smoke."
Courtesy of University of Chicago Press
On Thursday, July 29, 1880, Doyle wrote, "Came across a most extraordinary natural snow house, about 12 feet high, shaped like a beehive with a door and a fine room inside in which I sat. Traveled a considerable distance, and would have gone to the Pole, but my matches ran short and I couldn't get a smoke."

On June 15, 1880, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a vivid sentence in his diary. It read, "The only difference in the weather is that the fog is thicker and the wind more utterly odious and depraved."
Knowing that he was the creator of Sherlock Holmes, you might think Doyle is referring to the thick London fog drifting outside the windows of 221B Baker Street. But this sentence was written years before the first Holmes novel and it describes a considerably harsher environment — the thick fog and depraved wind of the Arctic, where Doyle traveled when he was 20.
Doyle's journals from that voyage have now been published for the first time in a book called Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure. Jon Lellenberg, one of the editors of the book, joins NPR's Steve Inskeep to discuss Doyle's early influences and the story of how he ended up on an Arctic whaling ship.

Interview Highlights

On what got Doyle on the ship
"At the time, in 1880, he was a third-year medical student at Edinburgh University and one of his classmates came to him and said, 'I was supposed to go off for seven months as the ship's surgeon on an Arctic whaler, but I can't. Would you like to do it?' And being the kind of person he was, he did it."
On Doyle's diary-keeping
"I think there's 70 drawings in all — black and white, pen and ink sketches. In some cases he went back later with watercolors and went over them again. ... He clearly saw that this experience was going to be a remarkable and important one for him. And he wanted to make the most of it, and to have a permanent record in both words and art."
On the dangers of the voyage
"He fell in [the Arctic water] a number of times in his inexperience, enough that the captain nicknamed him the Great Northern Diver, actually a species of seabird. But it was very dangerous to do it, and the waters were freezing cold. If you didn't get hauled out immediately, you lasted about three minutes before hypothermia set in and killed you. And, in some cases, the pieces of ice, if they came together, could basically cut a man in half."
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish physician and writer best known for penning stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes.
Courtesy of University of Chicago Press
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Scottish physician and writer best known for penning stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes.
On how his Arctic experience influenced the concept of Sherlock Holmes
"I think one of the remarkable things about the diary is that, although he's only turning 21 in the course of this voyage, you can already see very powerful storytelling capabilities emerging in the way he describes things. One episode in particular that basically had me falling out of my chair — it's now August of 1880, they stop at Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands, and he writes, 'Lighthouse keeper came off with last week'sWeekly Scotsman,' which was the Edinburgh newspaper, 'by which we learned of the defeat, the almost catastrophic defeat, of a force of 3,000 British soldiers in Afghanistan at the battle of Maiwand.' And what struck me so hard about it is that, six years later, when Conan Doyle was writing the first Sherlock Holmes story — that opens with his narrator, Dr. John H. Watson, an army surgeon, being nearly killed at that battle of Maiwand. ... It's very much a physician who has had military experiences, and some very severe ones, as well."
On Tuesday, April 13, 1880, Doyle wrote, "Boiled Beef day again (Tuesday — Teugh-day — Tough-day — Boiled Beef day). The worst dinner in the week except Friday."
Courtesy of University of Chicago Press
On Tuesday, April 13, 1880, Doyle wrote, "Boiled Beef day again (Tuesday — Teugh-day — Tough-day — Boiled Beef day). The worst dinner in the week except Friday."
On the Sherlock Holmes story Doyle wrote about whaling
"It was 'The Adventure of Black Peter,' and it's — the murder that's being investigated is a old whaling captain from Scotland who is found in his little cabin onshore with a harpoon through his chest pinning him to the wall, 'like a butterfly to a card,' Dr. Watson says."
On the humor in Doyle's diary
"I remember there's one entry where he says, 'We had nothing to do, and we did it.' And another entry, he talks about spending the night with the crew, which is basically an evening of music, song, drinking — he says, 'gin and tobacco in the crew's berths.' And the next entry starts, 'Suffered for the gin and tobacco.' ... He's a young man reporting what he's seeing and hearing and experiencing in quite a remarkable way."

Nevada News shortened to add Romney PAC TV ads

TV Show Times Cut To Make Way For Political Ads

Audie Cornish talks to Jon Ralston, host of the Nevada TV show Ralston Reports. He talks about the unprecedented number of political ads airing in Nevada this year. Many shows, including his, have been shortened to create more time for ads to run.