Al Neuharth's Friday mini-column in USA Today should have been in a section the paper doesn't have: the comics.
Neuharth claimed that today's newspapers play the news straight, while in the "olden days" they didn't.
Put down all drinks before reading (bolds are mine):
Fewer newspapers try to dictate votes
Plain Talk by Al Neuharth
More newspaper bosses across the USA have wised up to the fact that you readers are smart enough to decide who to vote for in Tuesday's election. Newspapers making presidential editorial endorsements this year likely will be the lowest percentage ever. Editor & Publisher, the trade journal, compiles the numbers.
Endorsements so far this year:
• John McCain, 105.
• Barack Obama, 234.
Four years ago:
• President Bush, 205.
• John Kerry, 213.
In the olden days, some newspapers actually were backed or funded by political parties. Not only did most endorse candidates, but news coverage often was slanted or opinionated.
Now most newspapers try to be fair and objective in news columns. But editorial endorsements make readers suspicious.
Neuharth has no comment about the imbalance this year compared to 2004. But that's beside the point.
No Al. At least for me, newspaper endorsements shouldn't make us suspicious in and of themselves. What should make us suspicious is the that fact the news coverage is inarguably more "slanted and opinionated" now than it was in "olden days." The most cursory comparison of Associated Press and United Press International dispatches from the 1960s and 1970s to the apparatchik-like drivel we have to endure from the likes of the AP's Jennifer Loven, Martin Crutsinger, Jeannine Aversa, and countless others proves the total folly of Neuharth's narrative.
When the news coverage is fair and balanced, we don't mind newspapers expressing their informed opinions on candidates and issues. But when bias and political correctness pervade every page of the national and local news sections of so many metro papers, we can't help but think that the entire operation is dedicated to disseminating propaganda, instead of informing the public. Then their endorsements become mere extensions of that non-stop effort.
More and more readers are turning away from that. Yet most newspapers won't turn away from their suicidal tactics. Fortunately for USA Today, Neuharth isn't involved in day-to-day operations, and the paper generally tends (emphasis "tends") to play it straight, and its subscriber numbers have held steady over the past five years. USAT is an exception. Unrelenting bias is the rule.