BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. There's more than a week left before the election, but many have voted already, including Americans abroad, shut-ins and newspapers. As of Friday, 60 newspapers had endorsed John Kerry; 53, George Bush. One decidedly important undecided is in Ohio -- that big swinging electoral bonanza of a state where some expect the Columbus Dispatch to shed 80 years of tradition and endorse the Democratic nominee. Joe Strupp, senior editor at Editor and Publisher magazine, has been tracking the endorsements and the high profile non-endorsements as well.
JOE STRUPP: We found that of the 5 top circulation papers -- the New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today -- only the New York Times and Washington Post endorsed for president. The L.A. Times used to. Their last endorsement was 1972 for Nixon. And there was a decision at the time by Otis Chandler, who had been publisher, in deference to his father, the previous publisher, he had kept the endorsements going, but felt that the paper needed to sort of get away from its conservative roots and image and become more of a broadbased paper, and the decision was made not to endorse. He sort of threw the '72 endorsement to Nixon as a goodbye endorsement present. USA Today has never endorsed. Al Neuharth, when he started the paper, had a longstanding doctrine that it would label the paper Democrat or Republican. And the Wall Street Journal, as Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor, told us decided that its coverage of issues and its editorials on issues, it believes, give enough information so that an endorsement isn't necessary for president. So that's sort of an interesting factor, I found.
BOB GARFIELD: If a paper has made the decision that they do want to print an endorsement, how does it work? What's the process?
JOE STRUPP: Well, most papers have some size of editorial board, and they get together, discuss, some have votes, and then the majority or at least the broader feeling prevails. But in most cases, a publisher can have final say, although most of the editorial editors we talked to said publishers rarely put that veto power to use. The Oregonian* public editor wrote a couple of columns talking about how they got into things and that there was a real dispute between their editorial page editor and the publisher -- the editorial page editor and the board wanting to endorse Kerry -- the publisher vocally wanting to support Bush --and in the end the paper supporting Kerry.
BOB GARFIELD: With these large editorial boards, is this process like the Supreme Court in which someone in the majority opinion writes the opinion, and those in the minority just kind of lick their wounds?
JOE STRUPP: That is a, I think, a good comparison. We took the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as sort of an example. Their process is that the publisher is not involved; that the six-member board votes, and the vote is clear. They ended up endorsing Kerry, and they said one of the editorial writers who supported Kerry in the vote wrote the endorsement.
BOB GARFIELD: What about dissenting opinions? Do they ever find their way into print?
JOE STRUPP: A handful of papers, if not more, often write an editorial not opposing the endorsement, but sort of giving the other side -- or in more cases -- a columnist or editorial writer might get space on the op-ed page to say well, here's the other opinion. But I think in general you don't have the opposing view given equal weight. That's why the endorsement is what it is.
BOB GARFIELD: Historically there have been some incidents where publishers have not only intervened in the process, but done it in a fairly extravagant way.
JOE STRUPP: Offhand, I don't recall that element, but there have been some other interesting ones. The one I came across was Newsday, in 1960, the publisher and the editor were married to each other -- Harry Guggenheim and Alicia Patterson was the editor; Guggenheim was the publisher. And she had come out strongly for John Kennedy and run an editorial endorsing him. He was so strongly in favor of Nixon that he convinced her to allow him to write a column that appeared on the opposite page, praising Nixon, and the, some of the folk at Newsday I've talked to and things I've read claim that almost led to divorce.
BOB GARFIELD: Wow. A Nixon endorsement. I guess I'll stop complaining about my wife's library fines. Joe, thanks for joining us.
JOE STRUPP: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Joe Strupp is senior editor at Editor and Publisher magazine which to date hasn't endorsed anybody.
*When originally aired, the paper was incorrectly identified as the Seattle Times