The diminished power of the press

The governor wasn't the only big loser last night. In fact, he probably wasn't even the biggest loser. That accolade might well be laid at the door of Ohio's print media. In usual tradition, each of Ohio's major newspapers made their endorsements to both fanfare and derision, but as the State Troopers Association notes not so ironically on the Facebook page

Ohio State Troopers Association (O.S.T.A.)
Newspaper Endorsements: Building a Better Ohio trumpeted the endorsements of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Columbus Dispatch. A review of the clout of these endorsements discloses the Dispatch endorsement produced a 36/64% vote against Issue #2 in Franklin County. The Plain Dealer did even worse, helping Issue #2 to a better than two to one thumping and the Cincinnati Enquirer endorsement preceded a 42/58% vote against Issue #2.

Is it any wonder that the printed media is looking so economically unstable. The real endorsements were found in the millions of social network pages that served as a peoples press.

Quite. But that is not all. Plunderbund, in their long SB5 reaction piece makes mention of this too

The irrelevancy of newspaper endorsements

Building a Better Ohio made much to do about getting the endorsements of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Columbus Dispatch.

Here’s the splits on Issue 2 for those counties:

Cuyahoga: 31% (endorsed position)/69% (against endorsed position).
Franklin: 36%/64%.
Hamilton: 42%/58%.
The Dispatch and Plain Dealer saw their endorsed position perform substantially worse in their home counties than they did overall. How is endorsing a position that is opposed by roughly two-thirds of your customer base smart business?

Let’s also not forget that it was many of these media outlets who called labor “foolish” for risking an all-or-nothing political gamble on a referendum campaign, even as polls at the time showed them with twenty-point leads. That was the main argument for a compromise… because Issue 2 was too divisive. Issue 2 won by almost the same margin as Ted Strickland did against Ken Blackwell in 2006. Nobody called Strickland’s election “divisive” with those numbers.

Keep in mind, there wasn’t a single newspaper in Ohio that endorsed Issue 3, either. There is nothing in the 2011 results to suggest that these endorsement brought about anything but cancelled subscriptions.

We raised this question, with the Editor of the Dispatch, Ben Marrison, about newspapers making endorsements and how they might cause readers to question the partiality of the Dispatch's reporting. The reply

@jointhefutureOH Newsroom doesn't make endorsements. We just write stories.

We replied "@dispatcheditor Yeah, but do you think readers really make a distinction? Newspapers should get out of the endorsement biz, and just report."

Given that newspaper endorsements no longer appear to carry any influence, and rightly run the risk of alienating readers, subscribers, advertisers and raising doubt on the partiality of reporting, should newspaper endorsements be cast into the dustbin of history? We believe they should be.