One always hears about how journalists should be unbiased in their reporting, and how news ought to be balanced, not favoring one alleged side of an issue or the other. This philosophical bias toward fairness causes a lot of angst against print media, such as ourselves, when it comes to politics. One such example is the indignance aimed at newspapers when they endorse political candidates.
Four years ago, for example, the Daily endorsed Barack Obama. Many other newspapers did as well, such as The Des Moines Register. Conservatives in turn replied with the typical “liberal media bias” stuff so often heard these days when their side doesn’t like something the media says, never mind that Republican presidential candidates the last few elections have been substandard.
Of course, to be fair and balanced here, Democrats would and do make the same bias accusations when the media speaks out against their people, too. It is this back-and-forth misunderstanding of what the media should and shouldn’t do that needs to be addressed: Despite popular belief, newspapers are under no obligation to present political matters fairly.
Newspapers have always been private ventures, owned by individuals. The earliest newspapers in America were exceptionally partisan, and a great many of our Founding Fathers — from Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson — owned their own newspapers or were good friends with someone who owned one. These papers were used as tools for campaigning, promoting one’s positions and actions, and, of course, insulting one’s opponents in government.
With the invention of radio and the advent of broadcast media (which would eventually include television), the question became whether or not radio stations could broadcast anything they wanted to, politically speaking, just as newspapers could print anything they pleased. It was eventually decided the airwaves were public property, not private property as a newspaper, and therefore stations had to give airtime to various political positions and persons.
Over time, the broadcast journalism ethic of “fair and balanced” reporting spread to newspapers, where today we find Americans constantly griping about how liberal or conservative this or that paper is. While the greatest public duty for a newspaper may often include the inclusion of multiple political sides, newspapers still have no obligation to do so. Newspapers can take sides, and sometimes they should.
So once again the Daily is faced with endorsing a presidential candidate: This year, we endorse no one.
Barack Obama’s inexperience and naivete has led to an ineffective presidency, and the Republican Party has failed to produce a qualified and competent alternative, choosing instead to select a nonpolitical, flip-flopping, quasi-liberal corporatist as their candidate. We cannot in good conscience ascribe to the modern philosophy of selecting the lesser of two evils, as this still constitutes to choosing evil. A better candidate is insufficient. We want a good one.
Our parties are becoming more partisan, our media fails to report facts and instead chooses to entertain, and Americans are increasingly clueless about political issues, themselves choosing to follow propaganda despite knowing how rotten the system is becoming. Until this changes, the Daily refuses to choose an evil.
Our pages are open to you however, and will be through this Friday. At that point, in the interests of printing all the election-related letters Monday and Tuesday, Election Day, we will no longer accept letters related to the candidates and their campaigns. We now leave the debate to you, Iowa State.