Editor's Notes at EditorsNotes.com

Monday, October 11, 2004

Anatomy of a Presidential Endorsement

The Oregonian endorsed Kerry Sunday, the only Democratic presidential candidate they've endorsed besides Clinton. They also gave their readers a behind-the-scenes look at how their decision was made:

Publisher Fred Stickel argued strongly in an editorial board meeting that The Oregonian should endorse George W. Bush.

On today's editorial page, the newspaper backs John Kerry.


[Columnist David] Reinhard says he was bothered by what he saw as the board's strong opposition to Bush. In a swing state, he says, the newspaper's editorial writers should be more reflective of the divided community. "What happens in that meeting is symptomatic of the problem in the newspaper industry, because we're out of touch," he says.

Stickel was disappointed by the decision but says he respects it. Although he could have overridden the choice, he considers that foolish. "Why would you have an editor of the editorial board, why would you have six associate editors, if you're going to sit there and tell them what to do?" he says.

[Editorial page editor Bob] Caldwell says the decision was difficult for him, especially because the board so respects Stickel's opinion. [...]

[Joanne Byrd, former WaPo ombudsman and Seattle PI editorial page editor] considers the independence of The Oregonian's endorsement process to be rare. "I've always presumed that the publisher really had all the votes he needed to get his way, especially on the presidential endorsement, what we think is the most important decision the editorial board will make," she says. "It's such a critical statement of what the newspaper thinks."