A lifelong resident of Minnesota, Michael Brodkorb is an experienced communications, social media, public affairs & research consultant and is an observer of all things political. He also blogs at politics.mn. He lives in Eagan with his family.

Newspaper endorsements are important, but only if you're endorsed

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb under Minnesota campaigns, Politics, Republicans Updated: August 6, 2014 - 5:05 PM

Over the last week, the Star Tribune has endorsed political candidates in numerous races. Who the Star Tribune endorsed has triggered the classic debate if newspapers should endorse and do the endorsements matter. 

Let me cut through some of the spin and state unconditionally: there is not a credible campaign in Minnesota that would turn down an endorsement from the Star Tribune or any major Minnesota newspaper. 

Scott Gillespie is the editorial page editor for the Star Tribune and he spoke with John Rash, who is an editorial writer and a member of the Star Tribune's Editorial Board about the process and reasons why the Star Tribune endorses political candidates. I'd encourage you to watch the video of Gillespie and Rash, as Gillespie debunks some of the popular myths surrounding newspaper endorsements.   

Gillespie said, "we think that our readers expect us to weigh in on the issues that matter most to Minnesotans and we think elections really matter." He is completely right. The public will read the endorsements and some will make a decision based on who is endorsed. It is a step in the process that some voters will use to make a decision on who will receive their vote. The campaigns endorsed by newspapers receive the equivalent of a public relations blue ribbon, a seal of approval that campaigns will spend time boasting about and promoting.

Endorsements from newspapers are important, especially if you're the candidate or campaign being endorsed. If you're not endorsed, you have two options: pretend it doesn't matter (even though you likely appeared at an editorial board meeting) or attack the process, claiming the perceived political bias of the newspaper prevented you from winning the endorsement.

At some points in my political career, I worked for candidates that were endorsed by major newspapers and other who were not, so it's fair to say I've used all of the tactics described above to promote or refute an endorsement. 

But as you can see in the picture on the right, all of the major candidates for statewide office in the upcoming primary next week did meet with the Star Tribune's Editorial Board. Why? Because newspaper endorsements are important, and regardless of the spin from those not endorsed, all of the candidates that were not endorsed would gladly accept a newspaper endorsement.    

I hope the Star Tribune and other major newspapers continue the practice of endorsing political candidates. But the campaigns that are not endorsed will push back with spin, but just remember that newspaper endorsements are important, but only if you're endorsed.

Picture source: Pictures tweeted by @StarOpinion of candidates attending interviews with the Star Tribune's  Editorial Board. 

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