The Chicago Sun-Times announced late Sunday that, for the first time since it launched 71 years ago, it will not be making endorsements in the upcoming elections.
In an editorial co-signed by publisher John Barron and editorial page editor Tom McNamee, the paper's editorial board explained it "will approach election coverage in a new way" by providing "clear and accurate information about who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues most important to our city, our state and our country" and posting candidate questionnaires, video interviews and side-by-side comparisons of issue positions online.
What it will not be doing, however, is endorsing candidates.
"We have come to doubt the value of candidate endorsements by this newspaper or any newspaper, especially in a day when a multitude of information sources allow even a casual voter to be better informed than ever before," the Sun-Times editorial continues.
The editorial goes on to point to research suggesting that endorsements don't have much impact election results but also contribute to readers' perceptions of a newspaper's hidden bias.
"As many of you have told us, you can make up your own mind, thank you very much," Barron and McNamee write. "We endorse that opinion.'
The Atlantic's Dino Grandoni called the Sun-Times' announcement "a (somewhat depressing) acknowledgement of something readers, who vote for who they want regardless of who their favorite daily endorsed, already knew."
As CBS Chicago points out, complaints of the Chicago Tribune's right-leaning bias were key motivators to the Sun-Times' founding by Marshall Field III. In 2008, the paper endorsed President Barack Obama, marking the first time the Tribune backed a Democratic presidential candidate in the paper's history -- which dates back to 1847.
In the state's most recent U.S. Senate battle, the Tribune endorsed eventual winner Mark Kirk, a Republican, whom they described as "the most capable senator protecting the U.S. from its enemies abroad and its unsustainable finances at home." Meanwhile, the Sun-Times endorsed Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, because they were "impressed by his character, his achievements as state treasurer and his obvious great potential."
In the 2010 battle for governor, the Tribune endorsed Republican Bill Brady over eventual Gov. Pat Quinn, whom they described as "a nice man who cannot do this job." The Sun-Times had a different take on Quinn in its endorsement of the Democratic candidate, whom they called "both pro-business and pro-people."
In the 2006 governor's race, the Tribune endorsed Republican Judy Baar Topinka over incumbent Rod Blagojevich because, they said, "the governor's office desperately needs a change." The Sun-Times endorsed Blagojevich.
Sunday, the Tribune ran a scathing editorial titled "How they failed you," in which they call out influential state Democratic leaders including Gov. Quinn, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and Senate President John Cullerton as at least partially responsible for the "carnage" of fallout since the state legislature approved the 67 percent income tax hike one year ago. The editorial goes on to list the name of every state legislator whom the Tribune says "you can thank for their failed promises -- and your pay cut."
"[T]he Democrats' tax increases are stifling the economic growth that would boost those revenues. With their votes, they made Illinois an even higher-cost state for job creators," the piece reads.
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