The editorial board of The New York Times recently published its endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination, as it has done since 1860. This year, though, the Times chose to be remarkably transparent in its endorsement process, publishing explainers, transcripts of the board’s interviews with each candidate, a podcast and a special episode of “The Weekly.”
As a board, we believe it our responsibility to hold elected officials accountable. It’s why we have traditionally chosen to endorse a candidate in UNC’s student body president elections, and why we chose to do the same for Chapel Hill’s municipal elections last November.
Without the public’s trust, the media cannot do its job properly. If the media were a well-oiled machine, trust and legitimacy would be the grease allowing it to run smoothly. But in recent years, the public’s trust in the media has waned, driven in large part by the rhetoric of politicians who maintain a (false) equivalency between bad press and fake news.
The Times’ decision to publicize its enforcement process reflects its commitment to preserving its reputation as a legitimate, top-tier provider of information. It’s an attempt to render itself immune to criticisms of secrecy and bias, to reject the “failing” moniker it has received from the president and his supporters.
Of course, there’s still something to be said about a group of relatively privileged individuals thinking they have our best interests at heart, but we digress.
The Times seems to understand something that many papers don’t — that the media’s role is to streamline, rather than monopolize, the decision-making process. As an institution, the media’s primary responsibility is to provide its audience with all the information they need to make an informed decision, without assuming they somehow know what’s best for the rest of us.
It’s exactly what we as a board have tried to do, pairing our endorsements with detailed descriptions of the criteria we used throughout the decision-making process.
We know better than most how difficult it can be to choose from a field of highly-qualified candidates with competing, but equally compelling, plans for the future — which is why we were disappointed to see that the Times’ editorial board chose not to make that ultimate determination and instead endorsed two candidates.
These decisions, while difficult, are incredibly important. Given the current state of our union, the need to unite behind a single candidate is stronger than ever before.