Arizona’s Largest Newspaper Quits Candidate Endorsements

February 27, 2020 by Dan McCue

The Arizona Republic, which drew global attention in 2016 for endorsing a Democrat for president for the first time in its 126-year history, announced Wednesday that it will stop endorsing candidates for public office.

In a lengthy column, Executive Editor Greg Burton and Editorial Page Editor Phil Boas explained that the decision to forego endorsements is one the Phoenix-based newspaper has been “discussing and debating for years.”

However, a recent deep dive into the matter with four focus groups showed most readers find endorsements alienating and “blur the way they view our news stories.”

“They don’t want their daily newspaper or news website telling them which candidates and which party should get their votes,” Burton and Boas wrote.

“Rather than unsigned editorials, our readers wanted more perspective from informed observers identified by names and credentials,” they said.

The editors wrote that many readers don’t see the sharp line that news organizations draw between their neutral news stories and their opinion content.

“More and more of today’s readers see candidate endorsements as an intrusion on the electoral process,” Burton and Boas wrote.

“Centuries-old conventions such as editorials and candidate endorsements are less important to readers today than when our words appeared only on newsprint,” they wrote.

Newspaper editorials “take too much time to read,” said readers in the newspaper’s focus groups. They take themselves too seriously and are too aggressively “one-sided.”

“To be clear, we never viewed our endorsements that way. We often told readers this was only our opinion, one source among many that should inform their votes,” Burton and Boas wrote.

The Republic’s 2016 endorsement of Hillary Clinton garnered global attention because it was the first time the paper recommended a Democrat in its 126-year history. Burton and Boas wrote that they stand by that decision and their decision to forego an endorsement in 2020 does not represent a retreat from their position four years ago.

The editors concluded by ensuring their readers that the newspaper “won’t disappear at election time.”

“Our editors and writers are redefining our role as we frame the issues in state and regional elections. We will inform with perspective and opinion about the major races as they unfold and will raise red flags when we see candidates violating traditional norms,” they said.

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