Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why The Times Endorsed Clinton Over Obama

Right before the South Carolina primary, with the New York primary not too far off, the New York Times went ahead and endorsed Hillary Clinton. They also gushed over Obama quite profusely. It was an odd editorial piece to say the least. Now sources are revealing that there was more to it, that a Clinton supporter by the name of Steven Rattner had cajoled his friend and NYT Chairman Arthur Sulzberger. This heaping serving of drama came out in the NY Magazine a month ago. Though today there's more.

From The New Republic:

According to Times sources, the paper almost didn't back Clinton. The divisions within the Gray Lady's editorial board mirrored the deep divide that has split Democrats in this tightly contested campaign. The 20-member board had initially leaned toward Obama, Times sources say. But in January, after the board had debated the endorsement in two separate sessions, Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. decided to favor Clinton. Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal, declining to comment on the internal debate, acknowledged that the vote was a difficult one. "It was a really hard one, no question about it," Rosenthal told me. "We talked about this within our board for hours. It was a very lively, interesting discussion. Several members of the board said it was the best discussion they've had."

Hmmm, is that all Mr. Rosenthal?

Clinton visited the Times on January 14 for her only meeting with the editorial board, after rescheduling her visit several times. Following Clinton's meeting, the editorial board debated the endorsement in two heated sessions, before Sulzberger tipped the scales in her favor. Some have noted that one source of Sulzberger's support for Clinton might be his close friendship with Steve Rattner, the former Times reporter-turned-private equity financier who is a prominent Clinton donor (and Sulzberger's gym buddy). Through a spokesperson, Sulzberger said, "Our endorsements represent the best thinking of the editorial board and we do not comment on them beyond what we say to our readers."

So that would be a "no comment" I presume. Skipping ahead to the present time, people at the Times like Rosenthal continue to write glowing articles about Obama and any pro-Clinton force within the paper has been subdued with her string of defeats. Well good for Mr. Rosenthal, but all of this begs a serious question....why do these papers endorse candidates at all?

The form answer is that way back when papers were meant to inform by means of an obvious and apparent biased contributor(s). Some newspapers still carry their old "Republican" and "Democrat" names. Though for the most part, many do not. Many papers are, or are supposed to have an above-it-all aura that paints a picture of the news fairly and informs their readers based on what is news, not what is good for one candidate or the other. So when you hear about political influence based on friends of the paper's head honcho and who they support, it makes you less trusting of the paper in question and frankly, all newspapers.

I'd love to see our nation's newspapers get their credibility back....maybe they'd like to start in this area first. Though personally, I doubt they'll pass a chance to toot their political horns.