Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The dwindling power of newspaper endorsements

So I was thinking today about validators in an election.

Everyone who seeks elected office seeks validators. They wanted the elected officials to endorse them. Or famous people. Or local leaders. Bloomberg got a Bollywood actress and people who can't even vote in NY to endorse him to "validate" him as a candidate in those groups for whom the validator has meaning.

Now it used to be that if you were running for office in Manhattan the must get in newspapers was the New York Times. This year the Times, the Daily News and the Post, the three largest dailies, endorsed Cy Vance for DA.

All three also endorsed David Yassky for comptroller and well, he got 45 % of the vote.

Which you could look at several ways.

Either the people in Manhattan read the Times, still find its endorsements meanful and persuasive, and voted for Vance and in the end he got about the same percentage of the vote, 45 %

Or you can view it as the Times, along with the other two papers, having absolutely no meaning for its readers outside of Manhattan.

Or you can view it as a newspaper endorsement only bringing a candidate to about 45% of the total vote.

Or Vance prevailed not because of his newspaper triple crown, but because of the electorate's view that he's Morgenthau's "boy" and annointed successor.

Any way you slice the cake, it's yet another disturbing trend for newspapers. Not only is readership down, its ability to persuade its readers has diminished as well.

It's an interesting phenomenon. Four years ago, the Times endorsement didn't matter for long term incumbents- they won despite losing the endorsement. See Morgenthau and Todd in Connecticut.

Flash forward to 2009 and the Times has a mixed track record of picking winning candidates who were incumbents and even weaker record of picking candidates open races.


Lots of interesting stuff being written about the power of the Working Families Party after two of their endorsed candidates won the run office here in NYC for comptroller and public advocate.

Remains to be seen what these "down ballot" races will bring to the Mayor's race in November. Perhaps a "reverse drag" effect?

Or perhaps the irresistable coalition of Asian, Caucasian and African American trioka means a closer than expected finish for our Republican nominee for Mayor?

Most of us will be staying avidly tuned.