[UPDATED] Why Milwaukee Journal Sentinel won’t make political endorsements

Listen to the Journal Sentinel’s editorial page editor discuss the change.

One passage: “We had an old publisher who was around for 50 years …it was Harry Grant. I’ve always remembered this: he said that the job of a newspaper was to go for the truth wherever you find it and to hell with left and right. And I’ve always thought that was the perfect motto for the editorial page.”


Romenesko readers learned on Wednesday that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — Wisconsin’s largest news organization — won’t be endorsing in the presidential and Thompson/Baldwin U.S. Senate races. (Both are within one point.) Editorial page editor David Haynes wouldn’t comment then, but he explains his decision this morning:

When I was appointed editorial page editor nearly two years ago, I pledged that our pages would be “fiercely independent” and that we would “offer a marketplace of ideas. That’s what we have tried to do. And that’s why we have decided that the Editorial Board should get out of the political endorsement business.

David Haynes

He adds: “Believe me, nowhere in my job description does it say that I should help politicians get elected.”

Other points he makes:

* “No party or ideology has a monopoly on good ideas – or bad ones. Our job is to sift through this soil and find kernels of reasonableness.”

* “Endorsements are a relic of a time when every town had more than one newspaper, of a time long before the wide river of commentary now available to anyone with a smartphone.”

* “There will be times, however rare, when it’s necessary to recommend a candidate.”

Bruce Murphy, a former Journal Sentinel staffer, says this is “an inevitable and probably smart decision by the newspaper, but it does present it with a big challenge: to reinvent the editorial page. …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?”

* David Haynes: Why we won’t make endorsements (jsonline.com)
* Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decides not to make endorsements (jimromenesko.com)
* Radical surgery by Journal Sentinel (urbanmilwaukee.com)