Right now, there’s no newspaper in America that needs to stay out of politics more than … Newsday.
by Jaci Clement, Executive Director, Fair Media Council
Endorsing political candidates has always been a topic of hot debate in media circles. The focus of the debate has not been over which candidate to endorse but rather, whether or not a news outlet should be in the endorsement game at all.
Right now, there’s no newspaper in America that needs to stay out of politics more than the daily on our home turf, Newsday.
Case in point: This year’s Nassau County race may very well be the single most important election since the county was formed in 1899, and Newsday, lacking all credibility on the topic, has no right to opine.
Yet, it has — and in the most misleading of manners.
In the Sept. 10 Democratic primary between Tom Suozzi and Adam Haber, Newsday chose to endorse Suozzi. That’s no surprise to those who know the history between Newsday’s parent company and Suozzi, but the editorial failed to mention that history.
What the editorial did not reveal — and should have — was how Newsday’s parent company, Cablevision, has handsomely supported Suozzi’s candidacy, to which it donated more than $200,000. (Note that Cablevision has also donated to incumbent Ed Mangano. The tally? About $16,000.) What also was missing from the endorsement? The mention of Cablevision’s former employ of Suozzi.
Newsday readers should be made aware that the conflicts mentioned above have appeared in content coming out of Newsday’s newsroom, usually buried deep within a story. The inherent assumption here is that the reader has read prior stories, and read the stories in their entirety. It also makes the assumption that those same readers, and only those readers, are reading the editorials. Newsday editorials are not the work of the newsroom. Editorials are the work of a separate department that reports to the publisher, not the editor, and its lapse of judgment on this issue is startling.
Now, in all of it, here’s what’s most interesting: Why did Newsday feel the need to endorse at all? Given Suozzi’s supposed commanding lead over his opponent (if those reports coming out of the Newsday newsroom are, indeed, accurate), there was no need to take a stand on an issue in which the paper has no legs. The paper easily could’ve stayed silent, avoided direct conflict as well as the appearance of impropriety. It could’ve even announced it would not take a stand, based on the history noted above. That would’ve been the tactic of a proper newspaper.
With the primary tomorrow, what is the net result of Newsday’s heavy handedness? The reader is now forced to question the validity of the race as a whole, and is left to wonder if the candidates’ accomplishments — all of the candidates, not just Suozzi’s — reported and editorialized by Newsday are fair, just and in the best interest of the public.
The residents of Nassau County, the candidates for Nassau County Executive and the election process, deserve far better treatment than what Newsday has afforded them.
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