Newspapers endorsing candidates running for national or local seats in the US is a phenomenon many Europe-based journalists find bizarre. While European papers will definitely have a general “bias” or slant for a certain candidate, especially when it reflects their general editorial opinion – this bias is only seen between the lines and does not include a paper openly endorsing a candidate.
When I met Ellen Clegg, the former Opinion section editor at the Globe, I asked her to give me a short rundown of the history of the Globe. She began by explaining that the moment the paper truly became important for its readers – especially those living in the Boston area – was when the editor in chief of the paper in the 1960s, Tom Winship, decided the Globe needed to make its first endorsement.
The mayoral race of 1967, Ellen explained, was like the election in 2016. Louise Day Hicks was “like Trump,” says Ellen – against desegregating Boston schools and court-ordered busing, major conservative issues at the time. Winship chose to break the Globe’s 75-year tradition of political neutrality and endorse her opponent, Kevin H. White. Day Hicks stayed in politics, but White became mayor at a moment in civil rights history when it was important for Boston to have a progressive mayor. They have been doing endorsements since then.
With the mid-terms being around the corner, the Boston Globe editorial board – they make the decisions involving endorsements – organized meetings with people running for various offices. The board takes about an hour to drill the candidate on their main campaign points and on the main issues being discussed in the state. This means I got to sit in on meetings with Geoff Diehl and Elizabeth Warren.
We met with Diehl first. Now I had little or no previous knowledge of Diehl’s views – I knew he supported Trump and was his “main guy” in Massachusetts. He turned out to be really nice, and made sure to greet everyone. He kept calling me “Elizabeth” – I must have garbled my introduction so he heard only that when I said “Una Hajdari, the Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow”.
The editorial board were quite critical of him – as they usually are in their commentary involving Diehl. While I wasn’t particularly interested in his answers – sorry, I don’t usually live in Massachusetts and have no stake in this race – I was fascinated by the fact that a candidate being interviewed, nay interrogated, by a paper that obviously doesn’t particularly “like” him and will most likely not endorse him tried to be very civil, open and direct in his answers. Just goes how a certain level of respect for the press still exists in the US – you’re being interviewed by the paper of record in this state and one of the biggest papers in the country, you’re going to face them and do your best.
The second one was Elizabeth Warren. You could tell everyone was very interested in speaking to her – and her answers to specific questions on policy issues were extremely concrete. Again, I was surprised at how open she was to answering questions. I’ve personally been a fan of Warren’s for a long time – I find her to be one of the rare people who has specific solutions to policy issues that affect poor and working class Americans. She was also very kind and open to everyone.
I’m not entirely sold by the endorsement process, but I did enjoy being part of it at the Globe and it will inform my opinion on endorsements that US papers make in future elections.
Una Hajdari is the IWMF’s 2018 Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow.