Ending Endorsements

The Chicago Sun-Times has announced that it will no longer endorse particular political candidates for election.

The Sun-Times concludes — accurately, in my view — that people don’t pay a lot of attention to newspaper endorsements anymore, that there are lots of other sources of information available to voters now, and that many people just view endorsements as a tangible sign of claimed bias.  The newspaper will continue to publish news articles about the races, as well as the candidates’ responses to questionnaires and video of the newspaper’s interviews of the candidates.

This development shouldn’t come as a surprise; the Sun-Times is just ahead of the curve.  Newspaper endorsements used to be crucial to election campaigns and were touted in campaign advertising and pamphlets.  But in the golden era of newspaper endorsements, there was no internet, there were no cable TV and political news channels filled with opinionated talking heads, and there weren’t thousands of bloggers and “fact-checkers” and political websites.  In the modern media world, newspaper endorsements have been lost in the din.  Indeed, the stodgy, sober, platform-based appraisals of the competing candidates that tend to characterize newspaper endorsements are at a decided disadvantage in an age when people seem to crave loud, shouting, over-the-top praise and denunciation.

I’d rather see print journalism stop endorsements altogether than try to compete in the shrillness department with the likes of MSNBC and Fox News commentators.

The Clarmont Closes

The Clarmont, one of Columbus’ landmark restaurants, unexpectedly closed its doors today.  The announcement ended 65 years of serving food and drink to hungry and thirsty central Ohio patrons.  No reason was given for the decision.

The Clarmont was one of the anchors on High Street in German Village.  From its dated, Jetsons-like sign, to its highball drinks and traditional steak and seafood menu items, the Clarmont screamed “old school.”  That was one of the charms of the place, and made the Clarmont a restaurant landmark.  It was a place to have a drink after work or, for some people, to have a “power breakfast.”  I recall going there for lunch a few times, but I haven’t been there in years.  Perhaps the clientele that appreciates old school restaurants has just dwindled to the point where the restaurant was no longer profitable.

The closing of the Clarmont is a reminder that many of Columbus’ former landmark restaurants aren’t around anymore.  The kitschy Kahiki is gone.  The Jai Lai (“In all the world there’s only one”) is long gone.  Jack Bowman’s Suburban Steakhouse is gone.  The Top is still here, and the Florentine, and perhaps one or two others — but there really aren’t many of the landmarks left.

The Race Rolls On, And The Big Issues Linger

The Republican presidential primaries, already seemingly endless, roll on.  With Newt Gingrich’s big win in South Carolina, the race is in disarray.  Gingrich is on the rise, Mitt Romney’s shield of inevitability has been dented, and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are hanging on.

The focus now moves to Florida.  As has come to be the pattern, that means another debate tonight (No!!!!!!), lots more negative ads, and probably some new revelations before Florida goes to the polls on January 31.  We’ll hear lots of buzz words and scripted retorts and talking points, but what we probably won’t hear is much substantive talk about exactly how the remaining contenders are going to tackle the budget deficit.

You can argue about how we select a President in our country, and whether beginning with states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina makes any sense.  The early primary voters never seem to share my perspective on the big issues of the day, but perhaps that is just a reminder that ours is a large and diverse land where people have many different views.  In Iowa, social issues always seem to take center stage.  In South Carolina, the votes for Gingrich seemed to be motivated, at least in part, by anger — anger at the news media, and anger at President Obama — and a desire to select a candidate who, the voters believe, will cut the President to ribbons in debates.

Social issues just aren’t on my radar screen, I’m not mad at the news media, and scoring debating points with glib jabs at the President isn’t important to me.  Instead, I just want to hear how specifics about the candidates will cut our spending, balance our budget, resolve our debt issues, and get our economy growing again.  Those are the issues that are most important to me and, I think, most important to our country.  Maybe — just maybe — some Floridians share that view.