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Today's Sirens - Are We Paying Attention?

Despite all the talk that mainstream US media outlets are bastions for liberals, many US newspapers are notably conservative. This is particularly evident when it comes to presidential endorsements. Most papers go Democrat or Republican all the way.

Rarely do you see an eyebrow raised when a paper endorses a candidate. It’s the way of presidential politics in America. Rarely do you see a national headline about an endorsement.

Until now.

This is the year when Republican-leaning editorial pages reviewed the presidential candidates and proceeded to break out some radical moves.

Houston Chronicle started the stampede early in July with this statement: “The Chronicle editorial page does not typically endorse early in an election cycle; we prefer waiting for the campaign to play out and for issues to emerge and be addressed. We make an exception in the 2016 presidential race.”

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The Dallas Morning News followed: “This newspaper has not recommended a Democrat for the nation’s highest office since before World War II — if you’re counting, that’s more than 75 years and nearly 20 elections.”

And the Arizona Republic discovered it can turn left after all: “Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.”

While the WSJ editorial board has not jumped into the waters, its opinion writers have rubbed against the grain, notably Dorothy Rabinowitz.

Globally, we have seen other monumental votes that have the potential to change the world as we know it. The Brexit vote rocked Europe and its repercussions are left to be seen. UK’s biggest papers pushed for the passage of Brexit despite warnings from Britain’s top leaders. Ironically, two years ago, Scottish leaders blamed the BBC for bias reporting when the referendum to secede from the mother ship failed.

Now eyes are on America to see where we are heading.

In the U.S. even papers that normally do not make endorsements made news.  USA Today broke its own no-endorsement policy and chose to write an anti-endorsement.

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“This year,” it said, “one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.” But the board couldn’t reach a consensus to support Clinton. “By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump,” it said.

Recently, the Atlantic decided to make a rare endorsement for Hillary Clinton – its third ever.  Yes, only three times. The Atlantic has endorsed two other candidates:  Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson. This year, its editors went back to its roots and quoted its founding editor James Russell Lowell for the right words, the right thing to say before voters go to the poll.

“In a society like ours, where every man may transmute his private thought into history and destiny by dropping it into the ballot-box, a peculiar responsibility rests upon the individual …”

Lowell wrote in 1860.

Each of these endorsements – or anti-endorsement – has been a head turner. A symptom. But a gaggle of them shows something is afoot in America. While we all know this year’s presidential election is most peculiar, we also know something doesn’t feel right whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.  And we also know this isn’t just the United States that is feeling the tension.

As a former Lois Lane, I’m partial to a newspaper’s ability to feel the pulse of its community and read its vibes.  Call them sirens of our times. We count on the free media to not only inform, but also to point out warning signs – right or wrong – as needed. The question is, “Are we paying attention?”




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