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The New York Times’s Endorsements are Ridiculously Out of Touch (Washington Examiner) January 21, 2020

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.

When I saw the New York Times recently ran an editorial endorsing a presidential candidate 10 months before the election and prior to any primary or convention, I could only think of the classic song Mr. Big Stuff.

In a world in which the elites are in retreat, how could a newspaper editorial board be so out of touch to think that anyone should care about their endorsement of a candidate?

I’m serious. I can think of few things less interesting to learn from a newspaper than the candidate they endorse for president and, certainly, before the main business of the campaign has even taken place. It’s like telling me what to think before I’ve had a chance to reach my own conclusion or giving me a lecture when what I needed was a list of important issues and the information to consider them. It’s telling me the answer before I’ve even had a chance to understand the question. It’s entirely the wrong approach, and, certainly, it comes at the wrong time.

In fact, one reason newspapers have been in decline, in my view, is their failure to adapt to a new role in the 21st century.

In my days as a college professor, if you had asked students what I do, I am quite certain they would have said that I “prepare and deliver lectures.” Yet, lecturing was the one thing I hardly ever did, because I had come to understand that it was not an effective learning tool. Students have far better and more interesting ways to get information than sitting in uncomfortable chairs in a classroom, listening to a person talk at them. The point of classroom teaching, I finally figured out, was to engage students and get them to think, not to tell them what to think.

Isn’t it high time for newspaper editorial boards to figure this out?

We are not sitting at their feet, waiting for them to tell us what to think or how to vote. Instead of giving answers, how about spending more time helping illuminate the hard questions? Rather than giving us a couple of opinion pages of elite answers, how about involving some thoughtful, ordinary people to reflect on their opinions, not merely through the occasional letters to the editor published days later?

Of course, this year’s endorsement was especially ridiculous because it was not an endorsement at all. Rather than choose a candidate, the New York Times endorsed two candidates: Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Their argument for this was that Democrats face a hard decision this year between what they called “radical” versus “realist” points of view. While true, it hardly lets the newspaper off the hook from proposing a path through that difficult thicket rather than merely throwing up its editorial hands. Their endorsement of Klobuchar as the centrist ignored what polls have suggested are more interesting choices to voters, namely Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg.

In an era of polarization, where politics now pits one side’s tirade against another, what we need is a way to find dialogue, not more diatribe. Especially 10 months prior to the election, we need to be figuring out the right questions, not jumping to someone’s version of the answers. It is time for newspapers to get out of the endorsement business and instead commit itself more fully to the information and dialogue business.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:


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