Shapes of Things: The True End of Media Objectivity?

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In 2016, even the news makes the news.

2016, an election unlike any other, still hearkens back to days of simpler, but equally messy, campaigns. While the comparison to 1968 is a no-brainer, 1964 has been called to recollection as of late, and in this case, as it pertains to endorsing candidates.

USA Today, the widest-circulating newspaper in the country, seemed to step back in time last week with an article by the entire editorial staff on September 30th, unapologetically titled: “Trump is ‘unfit for the presidency’”. The editors note that this is the first time in the newspaper’s 34-year existence that they’ve picked sides in a presidential election. While it’s no surprise that the biggest media outlets in the country, apart from Fox News (whose anchors are truly no friend to either candidate), lean Democratic, it’s the fact that USA Today is breaking its own historical neutrality. What’s more, the message isn’t simply vote Hillary, but rather: “By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump”.

This treatment, fair or not, is the same kind that was given to Barry Goldwater in 1964. During that election, Goldwater could find an ally in only three of the nation’s major newspapers: The Chicago Tribune, The Cincinnati Inquirer, and The Los Angeles Times. Even the N.A.A.C.P. broke tradition that year by formally opposing Goldwater – the first such statement in its founding in 1909. Media outlets supporting Johnson labelled the Republican candidate as a racist, a warmonger, and as mentally unfit for the office of president. Sound familiar? While the papers may have had valid concerns in 1964, they would cling to Goldwater if he had run against Trump in this year’s primaries.

The biggest concern for the Republican Party now should be figuring out how to stop the bleeding. The U.K.-based Telegraph, on the day of USA Today’s release, named the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and The San Diego Tribune as longtime conservative newspapers that are endorsing Clinton in this election. Unless the G.O.P. acts quickly in the next four years, the media will truly become liberal.

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