Globe public editor: Should newspapers endorse politicians?

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

Last week, I wrote about the importance of the media in holding power to account and used the example of The Globe and Mail’s editorial board, which endorsed Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last election campaign, but now has published an unprecedented series arguing very strongly that the Fair Elections Act should be killed.

I heard from many readers who argued that newspapers shouldn’t endorse anyone. One from Saskatchewan said this: “Like the former Globe customer [in the column] I too just about cancelled. What you say is all well and good concerning questioning politicians but why the need to endorse at all? A bit like the old Dragnet TV show ‘just the fact, ma’am.’ Sure [publish] context via journalistic opinion and analysis. But that is simply a lens. Out and out endorsement serves no purpose.”

A Halifax reader said this: “Not only must impartiality be done, it must be seen to be done. By explicitly supporting one candidate over another, The Globe relinquishes any appearance of fair, neutral, and objective reporting. By all means, your editors and columnists should express their views on the attributes of our politicians, but any semblance of objectivity flies out the window when you choose to endorse one over the other.”

John Stackhouse wrote an editor’s letter last year explaining why endorsements are written even though they can offend many readers. If you can’t read this subscriber link, let me quote from it: “We do it because newspapers remain opinion leaders and many people want to know where we stand. And because our reasoned positions should help readers come to their own conclusions.”

To continue reading this column, please go where it was originally published. 

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